In different ways and with different conditions Julian Assange and Bradley Manning are prisoners. Each of them may have their flaws as human beings (which human has no flaws?) but both of them claimed to have acted in the public interest, which is a motive that appears irrelevant to their prosecutors and would be judges.
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, continues to live in the Ecuadorian Embassy. He is a virtual prisoner there, unable to leave for fear of being arrested and flung into another prison. Presumably he finds his room at the Embassy more comfortable than a Swedish prison cell where he would face trial and risk extradition to the United States of America for leaking American secrets.
In Fort Meade, Maryland, Bradley Manning who is accused of sending secret information to Wikileaks, remains in prison awaiting trial on 22 charges of aiding the enemy. Private Manning wishes to defend himself on the basis that he did not intend to aid the enemy (whoever the enemy might have been) but that he intended to serve the public good by making information public.
Some of the information leaked by Mr Assange that emanated from Private Manning has shown that there is a prima facie case for prosecuting some American soldiers for crimes committed in the course of the military operations in which the United States has indulged. No a single person has been prosecuted as a result of the information now in the public domain as a result of those leaks.
It seems that revealing information that prisoners have been abused and tortured or revealing the infamous collateral murder video is a greater crime that demands punishment that committed those tortures or murders.
There is a plague of government secrecy that afflicts virtually every government in the world. Secrecy is said to be in the public interest, but is usually merely in the interests of the politicians or soldiers who have done something that they believe the public may find difficult to understand. Most facts that are kept secret are not really secret; if revealed that simply show that things are not as bad as we suspected or that things are worse than we expected.
In their different ways it is hard to see how Mr Assange and Private Manning can expect a fair trial and harder to see that they could put forward a public interest defence because governments refuse to believe that the public interest trumps state secrecy.
Morally it does, every time, but legally is another matter.
Filed under: climate change Tagged: | american secrets, Bradley Manning, ecuadorian embassy, fort meade maryland, government secrecy, Julian Assange, justice, law, politics, public interest, secrets, state secrets