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The demonisation of Bradley Manning shows need to protect whisteblowers

When Bradley Manning comes to trial on 4 February 2013, he will have been held in prison for over 2.5 years without trial. For up to 983 days detention he will not have been confronted with any of the evidence used to charge him. He is held responsible for a number of revelations published by Wikileaks whilst serving in Iraq as an intelligence specialist.

The real reason however that he is held is that the US government is determined to subject him to exemplary punishment for having the audacity to reveal some of the most brutal and illegal activities of US armed forces. That includes the routine ignoring of the torture of suspects by Iraqi military elements, the frequent use of torture by US troops themselves, and the exposure of war crimes. This includes the notorious video of an Apache attack helicopter shooting and killing 11 people in Baghdad in 2007, which the world would otherwise never have heard about.

But it goes far wider than the Iraq war in revealing the dark underside of US foreign policy. It reveals US officials in Afghanistan covering up evidence of child abuse by defence contractors. It reveals the training of torturers for Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, doing the dirty work for the US in abusing rendition victims but without leaving US fingerprints over such vile operations. It reveals too the secret drone war now being perpetrated against Yemen as well as notoriously against Pakistan, but still not officially acknowledged by the US government.

But it isn’t only Bradley Manning who is being persecuted for revealing the truth. The US administration has recently prosecuted John Kiriakou, a former CIA counter-terrorism operative, for revealing details of the US government’s top secret water-boarding of prisoners, which has been universally denounced as torture.

As a result it is now known that Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of 9/11, was water-boarded by his US military interrogators 183 times. In addition, last year disciplinary action was taken by the US military against three army staff who revealed the routine loss of dead soldiers’ body parts at an armed forces mortuary in Delaware.

As the Government Accountability Project in the US observed on this litany of traducement of human rights, “If you committed crimes under the guise of national security and the war on terrorism, you will not be held criminally liable,k but if you blowthe whistle on crimes, you risk criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act”.

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