The Freedom of the Press Foundation recently announced a major new crowdfunding campaign for whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s appeal of what supporters call “an unjust conviction and draconian 35-year jail sentence.”
On the day of sentencing Chelsea was still known as Bradley Manning, the young Army Pfc. who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents (none of which were Top Secret according to a Glenn Greenwald article published Wednesday) to the WikiLeaks website which subsequently released them publically. The following day Manning’s attorney announced that his client self-identified as female and should be referred to as Chelsea.
One source called Manning’s release of the material “the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History.” Trevor Timm, Executive Director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation countered that a 35-year sentence was “draconian” because the US government could not point to any concrete harm posed by Manning’s whistleblowing. Additionally, Manning was not allowed to mount a public interest or whistleblowing defense, and the laws under which Manning was prosecuted were never meant for whistleblowers, therefore creating “huge implications for future whistleblowers” and for press freedom overall.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is applying 100% of all donations to The Chelsea Manning Legal Trust, First Look Media will match all donations up to $50,000, and journalist Glenn Greenwald, a founding editor of First Look and co-founder of Freedom of the Press Foundation, has pledged to personally match up to an additional $10,000.
Manning’s legal defense team has a monumental task; they must read the entire record of the case, comprising 139 volumes of over 300 pages each, making it the longest court record in military history, before they can even appeal Manning’s sentence to the Army Court of Appeals which can order a new trial, new sentencing, reduce her sentence or reverse her convictions.
Traditional big government supporters have predictably branded Manning as a traitor while libertarians and other rights-oriented advocates see her as a courageous truth-teller who harmed only the upper ranks of the country’s secretive and manipulative political classes. WikiLeaks pointed out at the time that “Trials of accused terrorists in Guantanamo Bay are more transparent than the Manning trial, suggesting that the nation’s rulers have even more to hide from their own citizens.
All donations go to the Chelsea Manning Legal Trust.
The question then and now remains: Who did Manning’s whistleblowing actually harm besides the massive egos of the nation’s highest-ranking rulers? Anyone who was put in actual harm’s way, many argue, was put there by the nation’s power players, not by Bradley or Chelsea Manning.