By Ed Pilkington, July 31, 2013. Source: The Guardian
Bradley Manning began his first day as a convict on Wednesday, after he was found guilty of 20 counts relating to the transmission of state secrets to WikiLeaks. Outside the courtroom, the consequences of what amounts to a major escalation in the US government’s war on whistleblowers are beginning to sink in.
Tuesday’s verdict was the first time under the Obama administration that any leaker of official secrets has been convicted under the 1917 Espionage Act – a criminal statute designed to ensnare actual spies and traitors working with foreign governments. The only other time in US history that an official has been found guilty at trial under the Act for passing classified information to the press involved a naval intelligence expert, Samuel Morison, in 1985.
Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, a former Department of Justice whistleblower herself, said the consequences of Manning being found guilty of six counts under the Espionage Act should not be underestimated. She compared it to the failed attempt by the US government to prosecute Daniel Ellsberg, source of the 1970s Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war. “This is Obama’s first conviction against a non-spy under the act,” she said. “He has now managed to do what Nixon couldn’t.”