Bradley Manning sent documents to Wikileaks who released them to the world. Surely this, along with other whistleblower actions, helped convince Edward Snowden he needed to inform the public how it’s under constant U.S. government surveillance.
This cycle, in turn, seems to have even shaken a cowardly, self-serving Congress into perhaps…perhaps…reigning in a federal policing network gone mad. Time will tell.
But none of it would have occurred if not for the diminutive, 25-year-old record-keeper who compiled recordings of illegal military activity along with other documents and slipped them to Julian Assange’s website. The government knows it, and knew that-if they didn’t grab him, isolate him, and make an example of him to deter others-revelations of their illicit activities would continue to pour forth.
And, despite their efforts to draw and quarter Manning and his reputation, the dam seems to have broken. Manning could have received up to 90 years in prison for his admitted misdeeds. Prosecutors wanted him to serve 60 years. The military judge today sentenced him to 35 years, subtracting from that his time already served-1,294 days in pre-trial confinement (much in isolation) plus an additional 112 days.
All that considered, Morris Davis-a former Guantanamo prosecutor who left the military frustrated over the government’s abuse of the prisoners’ legal rights-tweeted today that Manning’s sentence “means he’ll likely serve about 8 to 8.5 yrs more in confinement and be out by the time he’s 33 or 34.”
Despite the government trying to paint him as a traitor, it hasn’t been able to scrub away the viral video image of a military helicopter mowing down civilians, including a Reuters journalist, on a Baghdad street. An image which Manning slipped to Wikileaks and then to the world. His action has garnered him a following of faithful supporters, even a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. And following his sentencing today, rights groups like Amnesty International began calling on President Obama to commute his sentence.
And surely Manning’s action has provided a strong catalyst leading to the federal government’s cover being blown in other areas: the National Security Agency tapping nearly ALL American phone and email communication and Internet research. And the FBI confiscating phone records of the Associated Press, a direct violation of Constitutional freedom of the press.
The government’s policing activities, of course, continue. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported:
The National Security Agency-which possesses only limited legal authority to spy on U.S. citizens-has built a surveillance network that covers more Americans’ Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say.
The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say.
The day before, The Washington Post observed:
If the police arrest you, do they need a warrant to rifle through your cellphone? Courts have been split on the question. Last week the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to resolve the issue and rule that the Fourth Amendment allows warrantless cellphone searches.
But now, thanks to Manning and others, at least we know it’s going on. So now, the American public has the option of getting organized, getting educated, and getting active in stopping it. But the public will have to badger Congress to make it happen, because Congress controls the purse strings to all the surveillance activity.