Manning case won't scare whistleblowers, they will find safer ways

Manning case won't scare whistleblowers, they will find safer ways
Private Manning was wise to reveal her gender identity issues after the court ended as she avoided biases, former ethic adviser for DoJ Jesselyn Radack told RT. She says her organization deals with “streams of whistleblowers” ready to tell the truth.

The Manning case and the tough verdict won’t frighten away other whistleblowers, but will teach them to find safer ways, says lawyer, Jesselyn Radack. The former DoJ ethics adviser says her organization now deals with “streams of whistleblowers”.

Radack spoke to RT about Manning’s identity issue and stated that she thought US Army Private Manning was wise not to make any gender revelations until after the court had sentenced her to 35 years in prison.

Manning has requested from now on to be referred to by her new name - Chelsea. Her male pronoun should be used only in official mail to the confinement facility. 

A military judge sentenced Manning after she was found guilty on 20 charges, which included espionage, theft and leaking classified information, sharing over 700,000 documents with the WikiLeaks website while working in Iraq in 2010.

Manning gave journalists battlefield reports, diplomatic cables from around the world, profiles of Guantanamo detainees and footage of airstrikes, in which civilians were killed.

RT:What do you think of this announcement Manning has made - saying he is now in fact a she.  Do you think the gender issues Manning was experiencing could really have affected his actions?

These two file photos show US Army Private First Class Manning (L) leaving a military court facility on July 30, 2013 in Fort Meade, Maryland, where she was convicted of espionage for passing secret documents to WikiLeaks; and at right in an undated photo courtesy of the US Army showing Manning in wig and make-up (AFP Photo)

Jesselyn Radack: I think it was clear throughout the trial that Manning was dealing with gender identity issues, it is proper to call Chelsea by her preferred name. I think Manning was wise to wait until the court martial was over before making that announcement, because people have biases and prejudices of their own and you don’t want them trying to caricature Bradley, who is now Chelsea, in a wrong way. I think it was smart to wait until after the court martial had concluded.

RT:How fair is the sentence Manning has received - 35 years in jail?

JR: Compared to the 90 years, and even to 60 years that the government was seeking, 35 years seems like a pretty good deal, especially, because hopefully it will be reduced once Manning is eligible for parole in about 8-10 years. But in the grand scheme, if you look at it through the optics of the war on whistleblowers, it seems to be a very steep price to have to pay, for basically telling the truth and exposing illegalities that the United States committed.
I remain hopeful that maybe the climate in this country will change enough that people will see Manning as the political prisoner that she is. But right now, unfortunately, our country is pretty unhinged when it comes to whistleblowers and you can see that most vividly right now with Edward Snowden.

RT:Manning's defense is hoping for a pardon from the US President - is there any possibility that could actually happen?

JR: I am not holding my breath on that one because the climate, in terms of criminally prosecuting whistleblowers and doing so for espionage, is so incredibly heavy-handed and out of scope that I don’t think that the president or the Justice department are going to suddenly have an epiphany and realize that what they are doing is wrong and that he should be pardoned. Maybe the future president might do that.

RT:It seems the US government is using Manning's case as an example for other whistleblowers - will it have the desired effect do you think?

JR: I don’t think it will. Other whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have studied the Manning case. They have said that they realize what happened in the Tom Drake case and in the Bradley Manning case and the case of Bill Binney - these cases informed the thinking of Snowden.

I know it is informing the thinking of other whistleblowers. We still have a steady stream of whistleblowers coming through my organization that represents them. It is not a matter of people stopping blowing the whistle, but it is the matter of people finding safe ways to blow the whistle. People of conscious will continue to blow the whistle, because there are a lot of people with a strong moral compass and are willing to take risks to do something to better their country.

Protesters from a coalition of groups demonstrate the conviction of Manning late August 21, 2013 in front of the White House in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards)

So, it is not that the Manning case is preventing people from blowing the whistle, but I think it is instructive about some ways to do it to keep it in the safest place possible. I can see that with other clients who come in and consult a lawyer before they blow the whistle, so we can help them get into a safe channel that will actually make a meaningful difference without them becoming the criminal or the target, to really keep it focused on the illegality and the wrongdoings by the government. So they focus on the message and not the messenger.

RT:Manning has apologized for his revelations, saying he didn't mean to harm anybody - do you think his leaks were justified?

JR: The United States had an opportunity to talk about the harm and they did not put forward a damage assessment. There have been no recognizable harms that have been articulated by the US government. So, I don’t think harm has occurred. I think Manning totally did the right thing and exposed a lot of abuse and illegality by the government. Not only did he embarrass the US government, but he committed the cardinal sin of exposing its crimes, which will really make the government go after you with the full force of the entire executive branch. You can see that with Edward Snowden and the United States’ overblown, clumsy and desperate reaction to him.

People, who have committed the crimes that were revealed by Manning, nobody has been punished. There are a number of courts Martials in progress right now over people who had done some pretty heinous things. But the last person who has a court martial for espionage has revealed the names of people at Abu Ghraib and other people at Guantanamo Bay, he was sentenced to one year, which is really out of proportion compared with the 35 years that Manning was sentenced to. I think we should punish the actual perpetrators. But the theme in every single of these espionage cases against whistleblowers is to make an example of the person who is telling the truth, the person, who is acting on their conscience, and the person, who is risking not only his career, but very freedom to expose illegality by their own country.