News releases are out today about Pfc. Bradley E. Manning’s 2007 video documenting an apparent US massacre of at least 12 civilians in Bagdad. He’s been charged with eight violations of the U.S. Criminal Code for illegally transferring classified data to Wikileaks.org. Is he a traitor or a hero?
Mixed in this embarrassing mess for the Pentagon is white-haired, lean, soft-spoken Julian Assange. He has proudly joined the ranks of Daniel Ellsberg in being referred to as the most dangerous man on earth.
It’s all about transparency in the Age of Information.
Assange is the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks.org, a Web site devoted to exposing secrets. Any country, any organization, any person. Primary documents, including videos, are downloaded anonymously through digital dropboxes. This is where Manning went, motivated by conscience, to download his video and government documents, probably hoping that the promise of anonymity and legal protection would provide true sanctuary and affect a change in current military practices.
Wikileaks began in the ‘80s in Melbourne, Australia, as an international hackers’ club called International Subversives. It eventually grew into a powerful site challenging governments, organizations and businesses throughout the world. In the last three years it has uncovered human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay, political murders in Africa and banks laundering money through offshore tax havens. Both Amnesty International and ‘The Economist Magazine’ have given it media awards.
All of this information is covered in the documentary short, narrated by Andrew Fowler, ABC News foreign correspondent, called “Wikileaks” released for free viewing on Journeyman Pictures this month.
Comments from Daniel Ellsberg, famous for the 1971 Pentagon Papers leak, are sprinkled throughout the film. At one point, regarding US policy, he says, “We’re being lied to and led into a hopeless war.”
Ellsberg goes on to point out that in the last 17 months the Obama administration has “outdone previous administrations in pursuing leakers. The Obama administration, very briefly, is as secretive as the Bush administration … and in many cases has gone beyond Bush.”
Manning’s video of the civilian street casualties taken from a US helicopter in Iraq three years ago and downloaded to Wikileak’s site, is shown in this film. Unarmed civilians are walking down a street. Amongst them are two Reuter’s photographers. We are informed that the camera one of the journalists is carrying is mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by the air crew.
A command by an immature voice tells the gunner to “take ‘em out.” The road is strafed, bodies drop. Rescuers quickly arrive to offer help, including a man driving his children to a tutoring lesson. They are all “taken out” as well.
Then it is revealed that U.S. policy regulations stipulate that when one person on a street comes in the line of fire, all people on the street must be killed.
You might think the U.S. Army is investigating this sad incident because of the mistaken command to mow down a photographer carrying camera equipment. However, the probe is not about the murders but about who leaked the information.
A returning soldier touring America with a group of Afghanistan vets repeatedly explains to audiences that incidences like this are not uncommon. For soldiers like him, they can’t live with it and are going out to speak against the war.
In addition, “Live from Paris” reported today that 90,000 secret documents on the war in Afghanistan have been posted on Wikileaks. The U.S. considers this an illegal breach of national security, but Wikileaks plans to release 260,000 more documents.
Interestingly, Wikileaks, based by permission in Iceland, appears to be protected from prosecution because the Icelandic government has written legislation declaring itself a protected offshore publication center.
Time magazine has reported that the concept behind Wikileaks “ … could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”
Julian Assange states the Wikipedia purpose, “What we want to create is a system where there is guaranteed free press across the world – the entire world. That every individual in the world has the ability to publish material that is meaningful. We are kept honest by the fact that we release primary source material… readers can check what the primary source says.” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCmjmDXp7TI).
The bottom line is that “Wikileaks” is the most important film you can watch, at your own convenience on your own computer, this week. After viewing it let IJM know — is 22-year-old Pfc. Bradley E. Manning a hero or traitor?
Producer: ABC Australia
Featuring: Andrew Fowler, Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg and others
Distributor: Journeyman Pictures
Time: 24 min 09 sec
Released: July 5, 2010
Web site viewing: www.journeyman.tv/?lid=60967#60741
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