Transcript: Remarks by CCR president emeritus Michael Ratner on Bradley Manning and the media on June 2, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Michael Ratner, President Emeritus at the Center for Constitutional Rights, at the “Manning and the Media” panel held at All Soul’s Church Unitarian in Washington, D.C. on Sunday June 2, 2013:

As you heard from the introduction, my name is Michael Ratner. The one thing about the introduction, which I guess is important in this crowd, is that I represent WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

…In any case, if we want to think about the press and what’s going on, talk a lot about the revelations of what happened – secret torture centers in Iraq that the U.S. was behind, the secret war in Yemen, the collateral murder video.

But I want to really echo what Justin was saying – I go from the Embassy in London, to Jeremy Hammond’s prison cell at MC Cedar in New York, to a court room where Bradley Manning is imprisoned – so if we’re asking about a war on whistleblowers, you don’t have to go much farther.

What’s happened is the government has decided the most repressive way possible to basically hit dissent, whistleblowing, and journalism with a sledgehammer. There’s no doubt about it.

And I think they’ve decided that because I consider us to be at a critical juncture and the Internet is what brought us here. There are now a tremendous amount of information available. There are very smart people out there. Secrets of criminality are harder and harder to hide. So what the government wants to do is really send a message to all of us – all the people up here, all of you, everybody in the military, every journalist who has a source, every source – “You disclose our secrets and you will be punished with a sledgehammer.” And that is what they are doing.

And Bradley’s case in particular – you know, when I talk about him, I’ve been a lawyer for 40 years, and I can’t believe he pleaded guilty to a charge that could get him 20 years in prison. You would have thought in any reasonable society – any society that had any care at all – [inaudible]…But it’s not. They now want to go and prove the most serious charges – espionage, aiding the enemy – aiding the enemy, which actually carries a death penalty…the government says it won’t ask for it but who knows what their judge could or would do. But he certainly has a good chance of being convicted of charges that could get him life in prison.

So you ask yourself “Why are they doing this?” It’s obvious because they don’t want the truth disclosed.

And when you talk to journalists and you know, we’re going to have a lot of journalists there tomorrow, and as Nathan will tell you 350 journalists applied to cover the trial tomorrow, which is fantastic obviously. But the question I would ask is the one Justin asked – where have they been month after month…?

Some of the most crucial part of that trial – when Bradley Manning described his torture – one of the hardest days I’ve ever spent in a court room and I wasn’t tortured. I was just crying when I heard Bradley Manning describe it.

And then when I was there for his guilty plea…a 20-year possible sentence – again, articulate, incredible reasons politically for each piece of information that he took off the computer and uploaded to WikiLeaks. Incredibly articulate. Did the media cover it? Hardly at all. Not even there.

What did they cover? They’re covering, instead, Bradley Manning’s psychological state or Julian Assange’s psychological state or what’s going on personally to them.

But the question they ought to be asking is not what did Bradley Manning do; the question we ought to be asking is why aren’t they out there saying the U.S. government ought to be held accountable for the crimes that Bradley Manning [exposed]…[inaudible].

I’ll close on what we have last week. Last week, we heard Obama talk about oh now he’s going to have a shield law for journalists – journalists who he claims are now co-conspirators with their sources. That’s [James] Rosen at Fox. That’s Julian Assange…

Then you hear [Eric] Holder say well, we’re going to change the law, we’re going to change how we do the subpoenas to the AP. Not at all.

The only thing that you can say at the end of that is what we say on the Internet all the time or on our tweets – LOL – laughing out loud.

I would say laughing out loud…except that Bradley Manning is in the brig, Julian Assange in an embassy, Jeremy Hammond was forced to plead guilty to a 10-year count, and there are countless others who this government is going after.

So we’re at an incredibly important moment because it’s a struggle over whether we will have a government in which we know what it’s doing, know its criminality, know its hypocrisy, know its corruption or will they close up every hole they have and will we just…[inaudible] people walking on the street not knowing what our government does.

…Support Bradley Manning. Thank you.

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