Secret tape in WikiLeaks case released

2013-03-12 21:47
Bradley Manning (Picture: AP)

Bradley Manning (Picture: AP)

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Washington - A group pressing for more open government on Tuesday flouted a military ban to release a secretly-recorded audio of testimony by US Army private Bradley Manning, accused of leaking war files.

It marks the first time since Manning was arrested in May 2010 that the world has heard his voice as he awaits trial for giving classified material on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the WikiLeaks whistle-blower website.

Reporters covering a series of pre-trial hearings being held at a military tribunal at Fort Meade in Maryland have been explicitly barred from making any video or audio recordings or from taking photographs of Manning.

"We hope this recording will shed light on one of the most secret court trials in recent history," the Freedom of Press Foundation (FPF) said in a statement, as it published the audio-file on its website.

"We wish to make sure that the voice of this generation's most prolific whistle-blower can be heard - literally - by the world."

The tape was made during a nearly hour-long statement last month, when Manning in a firm and assured voice explained he leaked about 70 000 files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to start a "public debate”.

When he deployed to Iraq he found himself alienated from his comrades and at odds with an army that "seemed not to value human life”, he told the hearing.

In the audio, he is heard telling the hearing "it burdens me emotionally" that he witnessed a video of US soldiers in Baghdad celebrating as they gunned down what turned out to be civilians including two journalists.

"The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemingly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have," Manning says of the video, which caused a storm when it was released to the world by WikiLeaks.

He compares the soldiers "to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass."

The 25-year-old, who is being held in military custody pending trial, said he would plead guilty to 10 of the least serious of the 22 charges against him, but would deny aiding America's enemies, a crime which carries a life sentence.

Court accepts plea

The court has agreed to accept his plea on the lesser allegations - under which Manning faces 20 years in military custody. But the prosecution still intends to pursue the 12 remaining charges.

"Extreme secrecy in our courts, just like in our government's policies and our politics, is an anathema to democracy," the FPF said.

"The courtrooms of America should be open to the public so they can see and hear what is being done in their name."

FPF co-founder Daniel Ellsberg, who 42 years ago leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and was kicked out of Manning's hearing in December by the military, praised whoever made the recording and sent it to FPF.

"I'm very glad whoever did it. I applaud their doing it, it was in the interests of openness, accountability and a fair trial," he told AFP.

But Ellsberg admitted that the military will now "take greater efforts to do what they shouldn't be doing at all and that is to prevent any further recordings being made."

It was important to get Manning's voice out to the public though, Ellsberg said, adding that the reason he pled guilty at his own trial was in exchange for being able to make a public statement.

"I don't know how Bradley is able to hear of all the support he is getting, or indeed any of the criticism. He's in prison. He has access at some time to TV but whether he sees news programmes I'm not clear."

Read more on:    chelsea manning  |  us  |  wikileaks

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