“All one can say is, ‘It could’ve been worse’ – a lot worse, not just for Bradley but for American democracy and the free press on which it depends,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who was a military analyst in 1971 when he leaked the Pentagon Papers: secret documents about U.S. decision-making in Vietnam.
Ellsberg, now 82 and of Kensington, said he initially had seen the “aiding the enemy” charge of which Bradley Manning was acquitted Tuesday as so unsupported and over-the-top that he wondered whether prosecutors had filed it just to distract the public from other, lesser-but-still-severe charges.
Manning’s prosecution is all about “shutting off any sources to investigative journalists from the Pentagon, NSA, CIA, the State Department – any information to the public about how they’re being served by the government, other than what the government wants them to know,” Ellsberg said, and that is “a kind of tyranny.”
Jeff Paterson, director of Oakland-based Courage to Resist and a steering committee member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, said Tuesday he sees the verdict as “a limited victory.” He said the judge, despite having “openly sided with the military prosecution,” still didn’t buy prosecutors’ arguments that Manning aided America’s enemies; such a conviction would have set “a chilling precedent against any future whistleblower,” he said.
Paterson – whose group was organizing a protest at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Market and Powell streets in San Francisco – said he’s disappointed by the Espionage Act convictions, but is confident the sentencing hearing will let Manning’s lawyers explain “why he felt compelled to give up his freedom in order to share this information with the American public for the good of democracy.”
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