What is really at stake in the trial of Bradley Manning? It’s whether We the People are going to decide to trust our government regarding all foreign policy (and domestic security) matters, despite a long and disturbing track record of government coverups and public lies. Yochai Benkler explains at The New Republic:
Whistleblowers play a critical constitutional role in our system of government, particularly in the area of national security . . . Freedom of the press is anchored in our constitution because it reflects our fundamental belief that no institution can be its own watchdog . . . The implications of Manning’s case go well beyond Wikileaks, to the very heart of accountability journalism in a networked age. . . . If Bradley Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, the introduction of a capital offense into the mix would dramatically elevate the threat to whistleblowers. The consequences for the ability of the press to perform its critical watchdog function in the national security arena will be dire. And then there is the principle of the thing. However technically defensible on the language of the statute, and however well-intentioned the individual prosecutors in this case may be, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror of this case and ask: Are we the America of Japanese Internment and Joseph McCarthy, or are we the America of Ida Tarbell and the Pentagon Papers? What kind of country makes communicating with the press for publication to the American public a death-eligible offense? What a coup for Al Qaeda, to have maimed our constitutional spirit to the point where we might become that nation.
Benkler is slated to testify as an expert witness in Manning’s case. He has written extensively regarding the Constitutional issues at stake in the case, including this article previously discussed at this site.
Consider also, this similar assessment of Manning’s case by Julian Assanage of Wikileaks.