Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is accused of leaking military secrets to the public. [His] supporters are holding rallies in 21 cities, seeking Manning’s release from military custody. Manning is in the brig for allegedly disclosing a classified video depicting U.S. troops shooting civilians from an Apache helicopter in Iraq in July 2007. The video, available at www.collateralmurder.com, was published by WikiLeaks on April 5, 2010. Manning faces 52 years in prison. No charges have been filed against the soldiers in the video.
In October 1969, the most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, smuggled out of his office and made public a 7,000 page top secret study of decision making during the Vietnam War. It became known as the Pentagon Papers. Dan risked his future, knowing that he would likely spend life in prison for his expose.
The release of the Pentagon Papers ultimately helped end not only the Nixon presidency, but also the Vietnam War, in which 58,000 Americans and three million Indochinese were killed. Dan’s courageous act was essential to holding accountable our leaders who had betrayed American values by starting and perpetuating an illegal and deadly war.
Manning’s alleged crimes follow in this tradition. The 2007 video, called “Collateral Murder,” has been viewed by millions of people on the Internet. On it, U.S. military Apache helicopter soldiers from Bravo Company 2nd Battalion 16th Infantry Regiment can be seen killing 12 civilians and wounding two children in Iraq. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency.