March 03, 2011, 12:21 PM — After months in what was often solitary confinement, the U.S. Army has charged PFC Bradley Manning -- former lowest-level intelligence clerk from a provincial security base in Iraq – with 22 additional charges related to the release of thousands of secret State Dept. cables to WikiLeaks.
The new charges (PDF posted at NYT) include allegations that he not only "posted to the Internet" (the first time I've seen that phrase uses specifically as the act being sanctioned) more than 250,000 secret U.S. State Dept. documents, but that he did so "wrongly and wantonly."
In any other context regarding material posted to the Internet, that last phrase means something a lot more titillating than the average State Dept. cable turned out to be.
The incident, referred to as CableGate, launched a new level of international pressure on WikiLeaks, including the resumption of Sweden's then-quiescent effort to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on charges of sexual assault.
This week WikiLeaks released another 76,000 secret reports from Afghanistan, though it's not clear whether Manning might have been involved.
Civil rights and antiwar groups defend both Manning and WikiLeaks as whistleblowers trying to get the U.S. government and Army to correct their mistakes.
“It’s beyond ironic that leaked U.S. State Department cables have contributed to revolution and revolt in dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa, yet an American may be executed, or at best face life in prison, for being the primary whistleblower,” according to a post by Jeff Paterson, of Courage to Resist, an Oakland, Calif. group dedicated to conscientious objectors and which is raising money for Manning's defense.
Critics call Manning a traitor and WikiLeaks a danger to international peace.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying WikiLeaks and Julian Assange can talk all they like about doing the public good, "but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier, or that of an Afghan family."