Manning helped pierce the veil of secrecy in Guantanamo
RT:How would you assess the impact of Manning's
revelations on the situation at Guantanamo Bay, and international
pressure to close the prison?
Andy Worthington: What Bradley manning made available to the public around the world was extremely useful information in a variety of different ways. He revealed war crimes through the Iraqi and Afghani war log. I had conscientious objectors explain to me that he is the most significant person in the history of whistleblowing on providing detailed information about the horrors of war that governments would rather hide. So, it is hugely important. I think what he did with the diplomatic cables was expose information that was necessary, that was important to many cases. With Guantanamo what he did was help to pierce the veil of secrecy that surrounds the prison and particularly the files that were released there provided the names to back up the information that we’d already be given about the false allegations that have been made about the prisoners by their fellow prisoners.
RT:Did his revelations bring the closure of Guantanamo closer?
AW: No, it has not, but I think it is a much bigger political issue, that no one individual, unfortunately, appears able to deal with.
RT:Reporters Without Borders called Manning's conviction "a blow to investigative journalism" - do you agree?
AW: I absolutely agree with it. What we have here is a situation where when WikiLeaks got a hold of this information when it made it available to the media, we had a long amount of time when the mainstream media in the US, the US and elsewhere are a major part of their reporting over a period of many months was based around this information that was made available. And clearly there were a considered opinions that this was in the public interest. Stepping back from that and claiming that it originated somewhere that involves espionage and attempts to sabotage the US is clearly ridiculous. This was the material for the public interest. We had a slightly different mechanism historically of how this came from the whistleblower from an intermediary organization to the recognizable mainstream media but I think this is a traditional story of somebody with the insider knowledge having important information to convey to the world and doing that through the media.
RT:The prosecution has failed to prove that the largest leak in U.S. history assisted terrorists. So effectively he's escaped being formally branded a traitor - doesn't this send a positive message to whistleblowers?
AW: It is not going to help if this man is consigned to the cell for the rest of his life. What is interesting is that Bradley Manning voluntarily admitted to ten of the charges in February and the intention at that point was if those were accepted, this would lead to a maximum of 20 years. Now we’ve got this possibility in the sentencing phase, it could add up to this ridiculous total of 136 years.
RT:Lesser the argument that he was helping terrorists…
AW: It is hugely important that if someone leaks the information that they believe is useful to the public good, they are not going to get convicted of deliberately aiding the enemy. That is a horrible charge for the US government to even consider bringing in the first place. And I’m glad to hear that it has not gone through. But this is not going to help Bradley Manning as a whistleblower if he is going to lose the rest of his life in the prison cell on the basis of what he intended to be useful information for the public to know about. And as we’re hearing many organizations and government throughout the world also believe is the case.
RT:An open letter from MEPs has called on Barack Obama to free Private Manning - is that a realistic scenario?
AW: Honestly, I have no idea. This is the military dealing with its own issue according to a court martial process, so I do not know if they will be swayed by any of the outside issues but I also believe the US has a problem with extremely punitive sentencing. I would be happy to see an acceptance of the crimes Bradley Manning admitted to and sentenced based on that. It does not seem that that is what we’re going to get, but I’m hopeful that any outcome we’re going to get appears to be punitive, people will carry on campaigning for the right of this person not to be victimized and sacrificed by the US government.