How a teenage misfit became the keeper of Julian Assange’s darkest secrets—only to betray him

How a teenage misfit became the keeper of Julian Assange’s darkest secrets—only to betray him

Jacob Appelbaum Doesn’t Have Much Hope for the Future of Privacy
Jacob Appelbaum has been called the “most dangerous man in cyberspace.” But he’s not, and it’s a label that pisses him off. In reality, Appelbaum is a renowned cybersecurity expert who happens to be one of the developers for the Tor Projec,; a WikiLeaks collaborator who recently co-authored a book with Julian Assange, and a trusted friend of Edward Snowden confidant Laura Poitras, with whom he’s working on the NSA links forDer Spiegel.
In 2010, Jacob became a target of the US intelligence services due to his links with WikiLeaks; he’s been detained and had his electronic equipment seized a number of times. Not particularly fond of the persecution he was facing, Appelbaum moved to Germany, where he has been approached by almost all the main German political parties as a computer expert, and has been consulting on films dealing with cybersurveillance and the current digital-rights climate.
On the day of our interview, his colleagues at the Chaos Computer Club—Europe’s largest hacking collective—managed to break the security on Apple’s iPhone 5 fingerprint scanner. And, Appelbaum promised, there were to be more big developments on the horizon for the Tor network. We sat down for a chat about whether or not the possibility of individual freedom has all but disappeared in the modern world.
VICE: What would you say is the best way to understand the internet, rather than thinking of it as just “cyberspace”?Jacob Appelbaum: There’s no real separation between the real world and the internet. What we’ve started to see is the militarization of that space. That isn’t to say that it just started to happen, just that we’ve started to see it in an incontrovertible, “Oh, the crazy paranoid people weren’t crazy and paranoid enough,” sort of way. In the West, we see extreme control of the internet—the NSA/GCHQ stuff like the quantum insertion that Der Spiegel just covered… the Tempora program. Really, these aren’t about controlling the internet, it’s about using the internet to control physical space and people in physical space. That is to say they’re using the internet as a gigantic surveillance machine. And because you can’t opt out of the machine anymore, it’s a problem.
Obviously it’s an imperfect system, though, right? Otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten caught.I agree that there’s something to be said about how they’re not perfect, but that’s the whole point; they present this all-seeing eye as if it’s the perfect solution, but it’s actually not a perfect solution and has some serious existential threats to democracy itself. You can’t have the largest spying system ever built and also say that somehow it won’t be abused.
Is the only alternative to that a system where anonymity is entirely guaranteed, even if you’re committing fraud or something?It’s important to recognize that there are different kinds of anonymity. For example, here we are in this restaurant in Berlin, and neither of us has a cell phone on. Geographically, we’re anonymous, but we’re not going to defraud this restaurant. Likewise, on the internet there’s no reason my ISP should know the websites that I visit and where I’m located, and at no point does that necessitate that anything bad will happen. Though you will have some undesirable behavior, there is a larger undesirable behavior to consider, which is that the internet as a gigantic global spying machine is not what we want for human society.
Continue

Jacob Appelbaum Doesn’t Have Much Hope for the Future of Privacy

Jacob Appelbaum has been called the “most dangerous man in cyberspace.” But he’s not, and it’s a label that pisses him off. In reality, Appelbaum is a renowned cybersecurity expert who happens to be one of the developers for the Tor Projec,; a WikiLeaks collaborator who recently co-authored a book with Julian Assange, and a trusted friend of Edward Snowden confidant Laura Poitras, with whom he’s working on the NSA links forDer Spiegel.

In 2010, Jacob became a target of the US intelligence services due to his links with WikiLeaks; he’s been detained and had his electronic equipment seized a number of times. Not particularly fond of the persecution he was facing, Appelbaum moved to Germany, where he has been approached by almost all the main German political parties as a computer expert, and has been consulting on films dealing with cybersurveillance and the current digital-rights climate.

On the day of our interview, his colleagues at the Chaos Computer Club—Europe’s largest hacking collective—managed to break the security on Apple’s iPhone 5 fingerprint scanner. And, Appelbaum promised, there were to be more big developments on the horizon for the Tor network. We sat down for a chat about whether or not the possibility of individual freedom has all but disappeared in the modern world.

VICE: What would you say is the best way to understand the internet, rather than thinking of it as just “cyberspace”?
Jacob Appelbaum: There’s no real separation between the real world and the internet. What we’ve started to see is the militarization of that space. That isn’t to say that it just started to happen, just that we’ve started to see it in an incontrovertible, “Oh, the crazy paranoid people weren’t crazy and paranoid enough,” sort of way. In the West, we see extreme control of the internet—the NSA/GCHQ stuff like the quantum insertion that Der Spiegel just covered… the Tempora program. Really, these aren’t about controlling the internet, it’s about using the internet to control physical space and people in physical space. That is to say they’re using the internet as a gigantic surveillance machine. And because you can’t opt out of the machine anymore, it’s a problem.

Obviously it’s an imperfect system, though, right? Otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten caught.
I agree that there’s something to be said about how they’re not perfect, but that’s the whole point; they present this all-seeing eye as if it’s the perfect solution, but it’s actually not a perfect solution and has some serious existential threats to democracy itself. You can’t have the largest spying system ever built and also say that somehow it won’t be abused.

Is the only alternative to that a system where anonymity is entirely guaranteed, even if you’re committing fraud or something?
It’s important to recognize that there are different kinds of anonymity. For example, here we are in this restaurant in Berlin, and neither of us has a cell phone on. Geographically, we’re anonymous, but we’re not going to defraud this restaurant. Likewise, on the internet there’s no reason my ISP should know the websites that I visit and where I’m located, and at no point does that necessitate that anything bad will happen. Though you will have some undesirable behavior, there is a larger undesirable behavior to consider, which is that the internet as a gigantic global spying machine is not what we want for human society.

Continue

Hey Conservatives, There’s Nothing “Delusional” About Being Trans
Chelsea Manning’s declaration yesterday that she didn’t want to be referred to as “Bradley” anymore and would like to live as a woman from now on instantly made her the most famous transgender person in the world. It also forced people to deal with the idea that some people feel like they are a man in a woman’s body, a woman in a man’s body, or a version of gender that doesn’t fit into the traditional male-female binary. This is not a new phenomenon—those who are neither precisely men nor women have existed across cultures and eras and have been both venerated and persecuted over the centuries. The simplest and most humane way to treat trans people is to just treat them as people, refer to them as the gender they want to be referred to as, and accept that unless you’re having sex with someone, it doesn’t matter what his or her genitals look like.  
For people who haven’t had much exposure to trans people, however, Manning’s announcement was “controversial” or “confusing.” (Even though it was already known that Manning was transgender.) The ultra-cis folks at Fox & Friends were all like, “Whaaaat? A man wants to be a woman? That is bizarre and I don’t think anyone understands what’s going on!” Other media outlets were reportedly struggling with which pronoun to use when referring to Manning. (It’s not thathard, guys. The VICE style guide says, “If someone is transgender or a transvestite, use the pronoun of his or her preferred gender.”)
Fox and Friends’ bewilderment is certainly insensitive but using the wrong pronoun or admitting that you don’t understand transgender issues isn’t all that vicious or transphobic, necessarily. Enter the National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson, who just wrote a post titled “Bradley Manning Is Not a Woman” and subtitled “Pronouns and delusions do not trump biology.”
Continue

Hey Conservatives, There’s Nothing “Delusional” About Being Trans

Chelsea Manning’s declaration yesterday that she didn’t want to be referred to as “Bradley” anymore and would like to live as a woman from now on instantly made her the most famous transgender person in the world. It also forced people to deal with the idea that some people feel like they are a man in a woman’s body, a woman in a man’s body, or a version of gender that doesn’t fit into the traditional male-female binary. This is not a new phenomenon—those who are neither precisely men nor women have existed across cultures and eras and have been both venerated and persecuted over the centuries. The simplest and most humane way to treat trans people is to just treat them as people, refer to them as the gender they want to be referred to as, and accept that unless you’re having sex with someone, it doesn’t matter what his or her genitals look like.  

For people who haven’t had much exposure to trans people, however, Manning’s announcement was “controversial” or “confusing.” (Even though it was already known that Manning was transgender.) The ultra-cis folks at Fox & Friends were all like, “Whaaaat? A man wants to be a woman? That is bizarre and I don’t think anyone understands what’s going on!” Other media outlets were reportedly struggling with which pronoun to use when referring to Manning. (It’s not thathard, guys. The VICE style guide says, “If someone is transgender or a transvestite, use the pronoun of his or her preferred gender.”)

Fox and Friends’ bewilderment is certainly insensitive but using the wrong pronoun or admitting that you don’t understand transgender issues isn’t all that vicious or transphobic, necessarily. Enter the National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson, who just wrote a post titled “Bradley Manning Is Not a Woman” and subtitled “Pronouns and delusions do not trump biology.”

Continue

VICE Meets Julian Assange

In the buildup to Julian Assange’s run for the Australian senate, VICE was invited to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for a rare in-person interview. Our visit coincided with the conviction of Bradley Manning, the young US Army private whose alleged espionage put WikiLeaks on the map. Assange spoke to us about political payback, his plans for freeing the most famous whistle-blower in history, and why the world needs a WikiLeaks political party.
Watch the video

VICE Meets Julian Assange

In the buildup to Julian Assange’s run for the Australian senate, VICE was invited to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for a rare in-person interview. Our visit coincided with the conviction of Bradley Manning, the young US Army private whose alleged espionage put WikiLeaks on the map. Assange spoke to us about political payback, his plans for freeing the most famous whistle-blower in history, and why the world needs a WikiLeaks political party.

Watch the video

Julian Assange Talks to VICE About Bradley Manning and Political Payback - Trailer

In the buildup to Julian Assange’s run for the Australian senate, VICE was invited to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for a rare in-person interview. Our visit coincided with the conviction of Bradley Manning, the young US Army private whose alleged espionage put WikiLeaks on the map. Assange spoke to us about political payback, his plans for freeing the most famous whistle-blower in history, and why the world needs a WikiLeaks political party.

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Bradley Manning Was Convicted of Espionage, and We Protested at the White House 
The best party I’ve been to all summer happened Tuesday night in DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, and the whole thing occurred after only 24 hours’ worth of planning. Attendees totaled around 200, someone brought along a sick PA system, and then somehow we ended up outside of the White House asking the president to pardon Army Private first class Bradley Manning.
So it wasn’t actually billed as a party, per se, but rather a rally—a last minute politically charged rendezvous—assembled the evening before in anticipation of a long-awaited verdict in the court-martial of Manning. And though things didn’t go as well before the judge as they could have, the news wasn’t all bad—as you probably know by now, Manning was acquitted of “aiding the enemy” but convicted of violating the Espionage Act and could now face 136 years in prison. His sentencing hearing begins today.
Twenty-five-years-old and thrice nominated for the Nobel Prize, Pfc. Manning has managed to attract a lot of attention in the three years since he was arrested and charged for leaking classified files to the website WikiLeaks. Supporters and the soldier himself say those documents exposed atrocities and prompted discussions across the world about US actions in the Middle East. Some even credit those revelations with expediting the end of the Iraq War. And although he never quite became a household name, what was perhaps Manning’s biggest day yet occurred Tuesday when all eyes were on a military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, where a judge would decide if the soldier should be convicted of “aiding the enemy” and 21 other counts including computer crimes and espionage for leaking documents to WikiLeaks.
Continue

Bradley Manning Was Convicted of Espionage, and We Protested at the White House 

The best party I’ve been to all summer happened Tuesday night in DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, and the whole thing occurred after only 24 hours’ worth of planning. Attendees totaled around 200, someone brought along a sick PA system, and then somehow we ended up outside of the White House asking the president to pardon Army Private first class Bradley Manning.

So it wasn’t actually billed as a party, per se, but rather a rally—a last minute politically charged rendezvous—assembled the evening before in anticipation of a long-awaited verdict in the court-martial of Manning. And though things didn’t go as well before the judge as they could have, the news wasn’t all bad—as you probably know by now, Manning was acquitted of “aiding the enemy” but convicted of violating the Espionage Act and could now face 136 years in prison. His sentencing hearing begins today.

Twenty-five-years-old and thrice nominated for the Nobel Prize, Pfc. Manning has managed to attract a lot of attention in the three years since he was arrested and charged for leaking classified files to the website WikiLeaks. Supporters and the soldier himself say those documents exposed atrocities and prompted discussions across the world about US actions in the Middle East. Some even credit those revelations with expediting the end of the Iraq War. And although he never quite became a household name, what was perhaps Manning’s biggest day yet occurred Tuesday when all eyes were on a military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, where a judge would decide if the soldier should be convicted of “aiding the enemy” and 21 other counts including computer crimes and espionage for leaking documents to WikiLeaks.

Continue

2013 Is a Defining Year for WikiLeaks
Edward Snowden is currently acting out his own real-life version of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? as he jumps from exotic locale to exotic locale, leaving a trail of American state secrets and public dissent over the whole “The US government is spying on everyone” thing in his wake. Accompanying him as he attempts to evade both the media the clutches of the American security state is Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks. Now WikiLeaks has taken the step of announcing that Edward Snowden is safe and sound (and not in the hands of the Russians, as some have suspected), and the international anti-secrecy nonprofit is going to continue to help him seek political asylum anywhere that will have him.
Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, who before Snowden’s emergence was the most famous government whistleblower associated with WikiLeaks, remains behind bars after pleading guilty to a host of criminal charges stemming from leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents as well as videos, including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video that shows an American military helicopter firing on, and murdering, three journalists. For his WikiLeaks-aided information dumps, Manning spent over three years in prison without going to trial, during which time he was tortured.
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2013 Is a Defining Year for WikiLeaks

Edward Snowden is currently acting out his own real-life version of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? as he jumps from exotic locale to exotic locale, leaving a trail of American state secrets and public dissent over the whole “The US government is spying on everyone” thing in his wake. Accompanying him as he attempts to evade both the media the clutches of the American security state is Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks. Now WikiLeaks has taken the step of announcing that Edward Snowden is safe and sound (and not in the hands of the Russians, as some have suspected), and the international anti-secrecy nonprofit is going to continue to help him seek political asylum anywhere that will have him.

Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, who before Snowden’s emergence was the most famous government whistleblower associated with WikiLeaks, remains behind bars after pleading guilty to a host of criminal charges stemming from leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents as well as videos, including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video that shows an American military helicopter firing on, and murdering, three journalists. For his WikiLeaks-aided information dumps, Manning spent over three years in prison without going to trial, during which time he was tortured.

Continue

Bradley Manning’s Trial Starts Today
On Saturday, nearly 2,000 supporters of Army Private Bradley Manning drove or took the bus from all across the country to march in defense of the soldier on the eve of the first day of his trial for leaking military documents to Wikileaks—including charges of aiding al Qaeda—and could bring Manning a life sentence in jail.
Antiwar activists, veterans, LGBT rights advocates, and journalists were heavily represented within the gathered Manning supporters over the weekend. The march was one of hundreds of rallies in support of the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst from Crescent, Oklahoma, since he was first put in pretrial confinement over three years ago. Some have been coming to Fort Meade near Baltimore off and on since preliminary hearings began there in late 2011; other events happened were happening this weekend in cities from Seoul to Santa Cruz. 
During the course of the military trial that starts today, army prosecutors will argue that Manning aided al Qaeda terrorists by taking sensitive military information and sending it to the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks. Manning started uploading intelligence about the Iraq and Afghan wars to WikiLeaks in 2009, and just a few months later he found himself even more distressed when he was picked up by authorities at his base outside of Baghdad. Manning has already pled guilty to ten of the 22 charges against him, spending one-fourth of his time since arrest in isolation, but he not to the most serious charges, including aiding the enemy, which could land him a life sentence in prison. 
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Bradley Manning’s Trial Starts Today

On Saturday, nearly 2,000 supporters of Army Private Bradley Manning drove or took the bus from all across the country to march in defense of the soldier on the eve of the first day of his trial for leaking military documents to Wikileaks—including charges of aiding al Qaeda—and could bring Manning a life sentence in jail.

Antiwar activists, veterans, LGBT rights advocates, and journalists were heavily represented within the gathered Manning supporters over the weekend. The march was one of hundreds of rallies in support of the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst from Crescent, Oklahoma, since he was first put in pretrial confinement over three years ago. Some have been coming to Fort Meade near Baltimore off and on since preliminary hearings began there in late 2011; other events happened were happening this weekend in cities from Seoul to Santa Cruz. 

During the course of the military trial that starts today, army prosecutors will argue that Manning aided al Qaeda terrorists by taking sensitive military information and sending it to the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks. Manning started uploading intelligence about the Iraq and Afghan wars to WikiLeaks in 2009, and just a few months later he found himself even more distressed when he was picked up by authorities at his base outside of Baghdad. Manning has already pled guilty to ten of the 22 charges against him, spending one-fourth of his time since arrest in isolation, but he not to the most serious charges, including aiding the enemy, which could land him a life sentence in prison. 

Continue

Bradley Manning’s Court Testimony—Leaked 
When Army Pfc. Bradley Manning spoke before a military judge at length for only the second time ever last month, the media gallery next to the Fort Meade, Maryland, courtroom was arguably the most crowded it has been since the 25-year-old army private was arraigned one year earlier. Clearly, I was not the only one in attendance that morning weighing whether or not it was worth risking my career, my reputation, and a possible military reprimand by recording the soldier’s testimony: this morning, audio of his guilty plea was leaked to the web by an anonymous source.





The significance of Pfc. Manning’s statement doesn’t begin and end with what he said last month. Yes, the army-intelligence officer admitted for the first time ever during the roughly hour-long reading that he did, in fact, cause the biggest intelligence leak in the US history. And, yes, as many assumed, he did supply the whistleblower website WikiLeaks with a trove of sensitive documents that he thought would embarrass the very country he swore to protect. His words weren’t the only ones that mattered, though.
By finally admitting to sharing war logs, State Department cables, and hundreds of thousands of protected files, Pfc. Manning was no longer the “accused” WikiLeaks source or the “alleged supplier” of some of the rawest evidence of American misdeeds in the Iraq and Afghan wars. He owned up. Yes, he did it, and a few dozen members of the press were hearing with their own ears why. Those members of the press have painstakingly referred to Pfc. Manning as, largely, anything but the proven WikiLeaks source since his military detainment began over 1,000 days ago. Now, however, he can be properly credited. And he should be.
Pfc. Manning said he leaked video footage of Iraqi civilians being murdered by Americans to spark debate. And sharing State Department cables, he said, was to show the world what the United States was really doing abroad. It was the first time I ever heard his voice, and it was a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Continue

Bradley Manning’s Court Testimony—Leaked 

When Army Pfc. Bradley Manning spoke before a military judge at length for only the second time ever last month, the media gallery next to the Fort Meade, Maryland, courtroom was arguably the most crowded it has been since the 25-year-old army private was arraigned one year earlier. Clearly, I was not the only one in attendance that morning weighing whether or not it was worth risking my career, my reputation, and a possible military reprimand by recording the soldier’s testimony: this morning, audio of his guilty plea was leaked to the web by an anonymous source.

The significance of Pfc. Manning’s statement doesn’t begin and end with what he said last month. Yes, the army-intelligence officer admitted for the first time ever during the roughly hour-long reading that he did, in fact, cause the biggest intelligence leak in the US history. And, yes, as many assumed, he did supply the whistleblower website WikiLeaks with a trove of sensitive documents that he thought would embarrass the very country he swore to protect. His words weren’t the only ones that mattered, though.

By finally admitting to sharing war logs, State Department cables, and hundreds of thousands of protected files, Pfc. Manning was no longer the “accused” WikiLeaks source or the “alleged supplier” of some of the rawest evidence of American misdeeds in the Iraq and Afghan wars. He owned up. Yes, he did it, and a few dozen members of the press were hearing with their own ears why. Those members of the press have painstakingly referred to Pfc. Manning as, largely, anything but the proven WikiLeaks source since his military detainment began over 1,000 days ago. Now, however, he can be properly credited. And he should be.

Pfc. Manning said he leaked video footage of Iraqi civilians being murdered by Americans to spark debate. And sharing State Department cables, he said, was to show the world what the United States was really doing abroad. It was the first time I ever heard his voice, and it was a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Continue

Bradley Manning Pleaded Guilty Yesterday: ‘I Did It’
After a blizzard blanketed the mid-Atlantic in early 2010, a 22-year-old soldier home on leave in Potomac, Maryland, braved the storm in hopes of locating an Internet connection that, unlike the one at his aunt’s house where he was staying, hadn’t been severed by nearly two feet of snow.
When Private first class Bradley Manning made it to a Barnes & Noble bookstore outside of Washington, D.C., he unpacked his laptop, logged-on to the complimentary Starbucks Wi-Fi and searched for some files he had burned onto a disc back in Kuwait before Christmas. It was in that shop, surrounded by comic books and minimum-wage-earning baristas, that the slight and bespectacled soldier uploaded classified and unclassified military files to the website WikiLeaks, an action that remains the target of both a CIA probe and a grand jury investigation three years later—and that yesterday landed Manning in court in Fort Meade, Maryland, where he pleaded guilty to ten criminal charges and will now likely serve twenty years in prison. “I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information,” Manning said yesterday in court, which I attended, “this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.”
The government’s case—and public opinion about the young soldier’s act—has hinged on the assertion that Manning’s leak put the United States in danger by making sensitive military information public. The files leaked by Manning include the now-infamous “collateral murder” video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq, in which US soldiers mistake a group of journalists and civilians for insurgents and then kill them; US diplomatic cables about the collapse of three major financial institutions in Iceland; files on detainees in Guantanamo; and portions of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. “They capture what happens [on] a particular day in time,” Manning said about the war logs.

Manning was captured by American officials in May 2010—after he’d gone back to Kuwait to continue his service in an intelligence center—when the ex-hacker turned goody-two-shoes Adrian Lamo, who had been in communication about the files with Manning via email, tipped off the FBI.  Manning was then accused of an onslaught of charges related to allegations that he supplied material to WikiLeaks. Since then, Pfc. Manning has been imprisoned without trial for over 1,000 days. Only during Thursday’s testimony, though, did he own up to those crimes and explain to the world with his own words why he willingly released materials that have changed history—if not in the way Manning had originally intended.  
When he finally finished reading the 35-page statement prepared for the court Thursday afternoon, a handful of supporters and members of the press seated before a closed-circuit stream of the testimony across the Army base erupted in applause. The only other time they ever heard the soldier speak at length was this December when he testified to the conditions he endured while jailed in a military brig after first being detained. His treatment there was so egregious that the presiding judge, Col. Denise Lind, agreed to take four months off of any eventual sentence handed down.
But for voluntarily admitting his crimes during a pretrial hearing on Thursday nearly three years after the fact, Pfc. Manning stands to face upwards of 20 years in prison. After his case is formally court-martialed beginning in June, though, he could be sent away for life. Because he gave classified information to WikiLeaks and, thus, the world, the government says he sent that intelligence into the ether and helped aid anti-American terrorists. The government could legally execute the soldier, now 25, if they convict him on that charge.
Continue

Bradley Manning Pleaded Guilty Yesterday: ‘I Did It’

After a blizzard blanketed the mid-Atlantic in early 2010, a 22-year-old soldier home on leave in Potomac, Maryland, braved the storm in hopes of locating an Internet connection that, unlike the one at his aunt’s house where he was staying, hadn’t been severed by nearly two feet of snow.

When Private first class Bradley Manning made it to a Barnes & Noble bookstore outside of Washington, D.C., he unpacked his laptop, logged-on to the complimentary Starbucks Wi-Fi and searched for some files he had burned onto a disc back in Kuwait before Christmas. It was in that shop, surrounded by comic books and minimum-wage-earning baristas, that the slight and bespectacled soldier uploaded classified and unclassified military files to the website WikiLeaks, an action that remains the target of both a CIA probe and a grand jury investigation three years later—and that yesterday landed Manning in court in Fort Meade, Maryland, where he pleaded guilty to ten criminal charges and will now likely serve twenty years in prison. “I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information,” Manning said yesterday in court, which I attended, “this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.”

The government’s case—and public opinion about the young soldier’s act—has hinged on the assertion that Manning’s leak put the United States in danger by making sensitive military information public. The files leaked by Manning include the now-infamous “collateral murder” video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq, in which US soldiers mistake a group of journalists and civilians for insurgents and then kill them; US diplomatic cables about the collapse of three major financial institutions in Iceland; files on detainees in Guantanamo; and portions of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. “They capture what happens [on] a particular day in time,” Manning said about the war logs.

Manning was captured by American officials in May 2010—after he’d gone back to Kuwait to continue his service in an intelligence center—when the ex-hacker turned goody-two-shoes Adrian Lamo, who had been in communication about the files with Manning via email, tipped off the FBI.  Manning was then accused of an onslaught of charges related to allegations that he supplied material to WikiLeaks. Since then, Pfc. Manning has been imprisoned without trial for over 1,000 days. Only during Thursday’s testimony, though, did he own up to those crimes and explain to the world with his own words why he willingly released materials that have changed history—if not in the way Manning had originally intended.  

When he finally finished reading the 35-page statement prepared for the court Thursday afternoon, a handful of supporters and members of the press seated before a closed-circuit stream of the testimony across the Army base erupted in applause. The only other time they ever heard the soldier speak at length was this December when he testified to the conditions he endured while jailed in a military brig after first being detained. His treatment there was so egregious that the presiding judge, Col. Denise Lind, agreed to take four months off of any eventual sentence handed down.

But for voluntarily admitting his crimes during a pretrial hearing on Thursday nearly three years after the fact, Pfc. Manning stands to face upwards of 20 years in prison. After his case is formally court-martialed beginning in June, though, he could be sent away for life. Because he gave classified information to WikiLeaks and, thus, the world, the government says he sent that intelligence into the ether and helped aid anti-American terrorists. The government could legally execute the soldier, now 25, if they convict him on that charge.

Continue

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