Transcript of Obama’s declaration of PFC Manning’s guilt
April 25, 2011, press release by the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Experts explain fair trial of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower may not now be possible due to unlawful command influence
On Thursday, April 21, 2011 in San Francisco, a group of Bradley Manning supporters raised their concerns directly to the president in song at a fundraiser. Logan Price, from the Bradley Manning Support Network, was able to question President Obama directly afterwards. During the discussion he president declared that Bradley Manning “broke the law.”
The video can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/IfmtUpd4id0. Below is a full transcript of the discussion, previously unreleased. The statement about Manning’s guilt could interfere with a fair trial.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor later told POLITICO.com that, “The president was emphasizing that, in general, the unauthorized release of classified information is not a lawful act…He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically.”
“I approached the President to speak with him about Pfc. Manning’s case.” Says Logan Price, in response. “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we were speaking exclusively about Manning. It was not a conversation based on hypothetical assertions, nor did the president say anything that qualified it as such. Any witnesses to the conversation, and there were many, could affirm this.”
Kevin Zeese, an attorney who serves on the Steering Committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network, said, “President Obama is the commander-in-chief. The jury that demands the guilt or innocence of Bradley Manning will be made up of military officers under his command. These jurors will already know that Manning has been mistreated, even tortured, during pre-trial detention. Under these circumstances it is hard to imagine military officers finding him not guilty. Will military officers contradict the commander-in-chief?
Will they find Manning not guilty and open the military up to liability for mistreatment of Manning? It seems unlikely.”
“In addition to pronouncing Manning guilty, the president misstated a critical fact in comparing Manning to Daniel Ellsberg,” said Jeff Paterson, a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network steering committee. “Unlike Ellsberg, Private Manning released low-level classified documents that hundreds of thousands of people had access to. Daniel Ellsberg, on the other hand released documents classified as Top Secret. Ellsberg violated the secrecy of the United States at a much higher level than Manning.”
“Ellsberg’s charges were dropped because of the Nixon Administration took inappropriate action in searching his psychiatrists office. The charges against Manning should be dropped as well. He has been tortured for nine months at Quantico and in the middle east before that by being held in solitary confinement. Now the commander-in-chief has made a fair trial impossible,” said Kevin Zeese.
Based on the limited and questionable evidence available (portions of Adrian Lamo’s chat logs), there is reasonable doubt as to whether Bradley Manning was the one who leaked the documents or not.
Bradley Manning faces a possible death penalty based on the charges laid against him for allegedly leaking classified documents. Those documents exposed war crimes committed by American soldiers, who currently face no charges or penalties whatsoever. According to both American and international law, a soldier has a duty – not a choice – to expose war crimes.
For more information on several incorrect points that the President Obama made during his discussion with Price, see Glen Greenwald’s article “President Obama speaks on Manning and the Rule of Law.”
Below is the full transcript of the conversation from Logan Price, followed by a link to a the video:
(from Logan Price, Bradley Manning Support Network)
The first segment and some of my comments that are not audible on the video recorded of the conversation, but are included here according to the best of my memory after the discussion.
Logan Price: [Shaking hand] Mr. President, why didn’t you talk about Bradley Manning?
Obama: Look, there are better ways and more appropriate ways to bring this up than interrupting and causing a scene…
LP: I understand. That’s why I am asking you now. I wasn’t singing or chanting and I want to know. I am really concerned because I think he is the most important whistle-blower of my generation. Why is he being prosecuted?
Obama: Well, what he did was irresponsible and risked the lives of service-members abroad… he did a lot of damage… [begin video] so people can have philosophical views on…
LP: But I haven’t seen any evidence of that, and how can you say that the leaks did more harm than good? What about their effect on the democratic revolutions in the Arab world? …and isn’t this going to help the war on terror?
Obama: No, no, no, but look, I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source… That’s not how the world works. And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law. We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate…No he’s being fine. He is being courteous and asking questions. [ This was because the Secret Service was tugging on my shirt sleeve by this point]
LP: But didn’t he have a responsibility to expose.. [war crimes]
Obama: He broke the law!
LP: Well, you can make the law harder to break, but what he did was tell us the truth.
Obama: What he did was he dumped…
LP: But Nixon tried to prosecute Daniel Ellsberg for the same thing and he is a … [hero]
Obama: No it isn’t the same thing…What Ellsberg released wasn’t classified in the same way.