At long last, Bradley Manning has been charged. It has only taken almost two years, and was more likely resulting from the military’s inability to ‘break’ him by torture into becoming a star ‘witness’ against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The death penalty is probably still on the table, despite comments to the contrary, if merely as the next step in attempting to manipulate Mr Manning.
There are clearly very few limits to the lengths which the US Federal Government is willing to go, in order to build a legalistically plausible show trial for Mr Assange. Law and legality are themselves utterly meaningless; if President Obama considers Mr Manning unquestionably guilty without the need for a trial, one must wonder how Mr Assange rates on the Obama Guilty-Before-Trial-O-Meter.
It should go without saying that the notion behind Mr Manning’s persecution is to, ultimately, put the fear of death in both potential leakers, as well as the Assanges and Daniel Ellsbergs of the world. Make a chilling example of one leaker, as well as his primary publisher, and the likelihood of such problems in the future will be nicely curtailed.
At least that is the theory. In practice, Mr Ellsberg is alive and well, whilst the case against Mr Assange required a secret tribunal to conceal, not the process of a kangaroo court, but rather the embarrassing and flimsily ridiculous nature of what the court is attempting to call ‘evidence’.
Allow me to bring up a little-regarded point: There is no evidence that Mr Manning is anything other than utterly innocent. Supporters of Mr Manning who object to this would be wise to remember that ‘innocence before proven guilty in a court of law’ goes both ways. Mr Manning can be best supported by not tacitly agreeing he is guilty without a trial, vis a vis insisting ‘he is a hero for what he did’. This stance does nothing to get Mr Manning a fair trial. Rather, it accepts an unjust trial but defends the action of which Mr Manning has been baselessly accused, by an paid informant in the employ of the FBI, as well as unverifiable ‘chat logs’ of dubious authenticity.
Personally, I see Mr Manning as being innocent. There is quite literally zero evidence which I can accept as being valid that he is otherwise. So, as far as I am concerned, Mr Manning was essentially chosen at random to be the person to call guilty. This is in keeping with how the FBI is known to operate; there is no reason to think the rest of the Federal Government operates in a different manner.
Here is the central failure of the persecution of Bradley Manning: Anyone who is thinking about leaking information will not be given pause by Mr Manning’s treatment. Quite the opposite. They will be both emboldened, and forewarned about the legalistic techniques which could be brought to bear by the Federal Government. The failure of the Government to appear anything other than lying, arbitrary, and incompetent in its monomaniacal pursuit of an innocent sends a clear message that a real leaker stands a very good chance of avoiding any fallout whatsoever from their leaks.
In fact, an innocent Bradley Manning will further the cause of government transparency far more than a guilty Bradley Manning. The assumption of innocence which his is owed by supporters and detractors alike, proven true (or unfairly ‘false’) in a court of law, will show the Federal Government to be as ruthless as it is ineffective. There is, I expect, a veritable army of disaffected Federal employees and agents who are watching the Manning trial very closely. If and when they are convinced of their safety, they will leak.
The gallows humour of the situation is that the Federal Government actually believes its own claptrap, as President Obama made abundantly clear. The chilling incompetence of this cannot be overemphasised. It means the Federal Government is so blindly ruthless, it is able to pick out a person at random and know they are guilty. This is in the same vein as that famous scene in Eric Blair’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, where O’Brien says that, when he holds up three fingers, but declares they are four, Winston must literally see four fingers where there are actually only three.
This level of institutional delusional psychopathy has very grim implications. It does, however, have an upside. It precludes any ability of the Federal Government to be truly Machiavellian. ‘The prince’ of Machiavelli’s design is many things, but delusionally psychopathic is not one of them. To dominate effectively, ‘the prince’ has to see things as they really are, and not as he wants them to be. He must be popular and widely loved in order to stay in power. The Federal Government has this precisely backward.
Because of this, the Federal Government must pick out innocents which it truly knows are guilty. This obviously precludes the need for anything other than show trials. The Government is literally incapable, institutionally speaking, of picking out innocents it knows to be innocent, and calling them guilty regardless. That would not pass the O’Brien finger test.
This, very fortunately, precludes the truly Machiavellian solution to stopping leaks from untraceable sources. A ‘prince’ would select, say, ten people at random who had access to leaked information and throw them in prison – or simply kill them – as an intimidation tactic. The idea being to create a direct human cost to leaking: Every leak means another ten people permanently imprisoned, or dead. This plays off of the quite reasonable assumption that a leaker would leak for altruistic notions, which the Federal Government clearly cannot understand. Mr Manning and Mr Assange are guilty of ‘aiding the enemy,’ ‘espionage’, et cetera, ad nausam.
To be fair, the Federal Government is ruthless enough to execute such a plan as I mentioned above. Luckily it utterly lacks the clarity of vision necessary to conceptualise of this notion in any way, shape, or form. One should not underestimate how ruthless and mad with power the Federal Government really is. However, we should be thankful that it is, at the same time, quite insane.