Setting a ‘dangerous precedent’ for the future of whistleblowers in the United States, Tuesday’s ruling in which Pfc. Bradley Manning was found guilty of over 20 counts sheds new light on the current predicaments of at-large truth-tellers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.
As critics react to the hearing, many agree that the guilty conviction handed down by Judge Col. Denise Lind—chiefly the five counts of espionage— are further proof that the United States, under the direction of President Barack Obama, is ’emboldened’ to proceed in their merciless pursuit and prosecution of whistleblowers.
Following the hearing, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represent WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, issued a statement in which they declared, “Manning’s treatment, prosecution, and sentencing have one purpose: to silence potential whistleblowers and the media as well.”
When asked by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman what the Manning verdict means for him, Assange answered that “the Department of Justice has admitted that the investigation against me and WikiLeaks proceeds in relation to the Manning verdict.” He added that his attorneys believe that the US DOJ has already issued a sealed indictment against him.
Assange is currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been granted political asylum.
Reporting on the implications of the Assange trial and the WikiLeaks case, reporter Billy Kenber wrote in a Washington Post piece published Tuesday that the espionage charges make it “increasingly likely that the United States will prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a co-conspirator.”
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In a statement released following the verdict, Assange writes, “This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism.”
Noting that President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined, he adds, “The Obama administration has been chipping away [at] democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.”
Independent reporter Kevin Gosztola, who had covered the trial daily, wrote following the hearing that the rulings had dangerous implications for other whistleblowers:
As if to underline his point, House Intelligence Committee members Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) issued this threatening statement in reaction to the hearing: “Justice has been served…There is still much work to be done to reduce the ability of criminals like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden to harm our national security.”
As the verdict was read, supporters of at-large NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden also responded with concern.
In an interview Tuesday with Russia’s state television station, Lonnie Snowden—father of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, advocated for his son to stay in Russia and to stay “out of the reach of those who would wish him harm.”
Reuters reports that Lonnie Snowden said he did not think his son would get a fair trial in the United States. “I hope that he will return home and appear in court … But I don’t expect that … a court would be fair. We cannot guarantee a fair court.”