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WikiLeaks suspect: Where Army sees traitor, some see whistleblower

Stakes rose this week for soldier Bradley Manning, now that charges against him in the WikiLeaks case include a capital crime. But Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg sees cause for alarm in Army's prosecution.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / March 3, 2011

Rachel Winch, of Washington, holds a sign during a demonstration outside FBI headquarters in Washington, on Jan. 17, in support of US Army Pfc Bradley Manning, the alleged leaker of documents to WikiLeaks who is currently jailed.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP



The stakes got higher this week for Army Pvt. First Class Bradley Manning, now that the charges against him in the WikiLeaks case include a capital offense: aiding the enemy. But even as he is denounced from Capitol Hill to the Pentagon for his alleged role in the massive documents release, the young soldier is for now attracting some high-profile defenders who argue that his case has more to do with whistleblowing than treason.

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Daniel Ellsberg, who was arrested for releasing classified documents describing the conduct of the Vietnam War to The New York Times in 1971, says the parallels between his case and Manning's are “quite striking.” President Nixon, he notes, had accused him of “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”

Moreover, Mr. Ellsberg continues, it's hard to see how the enemy – unnamed in new charges against Bradley but presumably Al Qaeda or the Taliban – was aided by the WikiLeaks document release. In fact, the opposite may be true, he said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. Al Qaeda “wants these wars to continue because they are the main basis for recruiting” other insurgents, he says, but release of the documents to WikiLeaks could be seen as an effort to galvanize the American public to call for an end to the wars.

WikiLeaks 101: Five questions about who did what and when

The 22 new charges against Manning in the WikiLeaks case "more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Pvt. First Class Manning is accused of committing," said Capt. John Haberland, spokesman for the Military District of Washington.

In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona called the case “the greatest disclosure of classified information in the history of the country.”

Critics argue, however, that the US military’s prosecution of Manning sets a dangerous precedent, equating the acts of a whistleblower with high treason.

The Obama administration has brought five prosecutions against Manning and others for whistleblowing and leaks – “almost twice as many as all previous presidents put together,” says Ellsberg. “We see a campaign here against whistleblowing that’s actually unprecedented in legal terms.”


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