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‘Ridiculous Manning trial proves demand for whistleblowers’

‘Ridiculous Manning trial proves demand for whistleblowers’
Barack Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any of his predecessors, with Bradley Manning’s case part of the crackdown, but people will still break the rules to reveal the truth to the public, Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks spokesman, told RT.

The trial of the US army private, Bradley Manning, who handed classified military data to Wikileaks, is now underway in Maryland.

The whistleblower faces a list of charges – among them aiding the enemy, which could land him in prison for the rest of his life.

Kristinn Hrafnsson believes that Manning has already suffered enough and should be set free as no lives have been harmed due to the data he disclosed. 

RT: Manning is on trial for providing information to your organization. You're the ones who made it public - do you feel responsible for his predicament?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: We are a journalistic organization, who of course provide a platform for whistleblowers and sources to submit information to us anonymously. And the best way to secure the people – the whistleblowers – is by not knowing their identity. So, I can say that I first heard the name ‘Bradley Manning’ when I read in the papers that he has been arrested in May 2010. So, it’s worth emphasizing that nothing that WikiLeaks did led to his arrest and this trail. 

RT: What is your organization doing to help him avoid life imprisonment for collaborating with you?

KH: We do support him in any way possible through the millions of people that have subscribed to our Twitter and our Facebook accounts.  And we try to provide a mass of support to Bradley Manning because he, certainly, needs it and will need it in the future. This trial is very much a trial of the freedom of the press. And it’s worth noting that there are extremely serious steps taken by the US administration to pursue these extremely serious charges against young Bradley Manning for aiding the enemy, for basically treason, which carries the death penalty. It’s an extremely serious thing that should be considered by the general public and journalists as a serious threat.

RT: It turns out that by publishing Manning’s documents WikiLeaks aided the enemy as well. Should you also be prosecuted?

KH: It’s totally absurd. We work with more than 100 media organizations all around the world, including the New York Times, who published this information. So, did the New York Times aid the enemy? Would’ve it have made a difference if  those soldiers who killed Osama bin Laden, found a copy of the New York Times in his house or online material? This is journalism.  

RT: Many blame Manning for spilling state secrets without regard to those he might endanger. He deserves to be punished doesn't he?

KH: Absolutely not. He should be set free. He 's suffered enough after three years in prison and one year almost under torturous conditions. Enough is enough. The information that was revealed by WikiLeaks was information on war crimes and corruption and information that should be in the public domain. There’s not a single report or claim that life has been harmed as a result of these leaks.  

RT: The US government is already under fire for apparently clamping down on press freedoms, take the AP debacle, for example. Could this play into Manning's hands, getting him a softer sentence?

KH: This should be a wakeup call to everybody. Yes, you are correct. This is a part of a strategy, a tendency, which is extremely serious. You mentioned phone records that were taken from 20 Germans from the Associated Press, the gruesome Fox affair as well. Let’s not forget that under Obama more whistleblowers had been prosecuted that under all other president after World War II combined. 

AFP Photo / Will Oliver

RT: Julian Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Bradley Manning faces a lifetime in prison - what kind of future do you think the whistleblowing movement has?

KH: There’s an obvious attempt to stop the whistleblowers because those in power they, of course, see that in our modern age it’s easier to submit information to the general public through WikiLeaks or other platforms that are similar. It won’t stop whistleblowers. There’ll always be brave people out there, who are filled with the right ideals and, who feel that sometimes they need to break the rules to get information out to the people because the people have the right to know. I don’t see that as a serious threat towards whistleblowing, in general. And it’s a positive thing that in many other countries, outside the US, there’s growing tendency towards strengthening the legal base of whistleblowing, including here in my own country [Iceland]. So, I don’t fear that too much, but overreaction and this ridiculous show-trial that started today is an indication of, actually, the positive element that whistleblowing can have and the need for us to have whistleblowers to submit information into the public domain.