Manning Verdict Blow For Investigative Journalism And Its Sources

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Reporters Without Borders regards today’s verdict in U.S. Army private Bradley Manning’s trial as dangerous. Although acquitted of “aiding the enemy,” he was found guilty of five counts of espionage and five counts of theft, for which he could receive a combined sentence of more than 100 years in prison.

The sentence is due to be announced at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow (1330 GMT). [Correction: The sentencing phase begins tomorrow, it is expected to last a month before the sentence is announced.]

The verdict is warning to all whistleblowers, against whom the Obama administration has been waging an unprecedented offensive that has ignored the public interest in their revelations. It also threatens the future of investigative journalism, which risks finding its sources drying up.

“The information that Manning allegedly passed to WikiLeaks – used by newspapers such as The New York TimesThe GuardianDer Spiegel and Le Monde in coordination with Julian Assange’s website ¬– included revelations of grave abuses in the ‘war on terror’ launched by the Bush administration,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“The ‘collateral’ fatal shooting of Reuters employees by a U.S. Army helicopter in Baghdad in July 2007 is a well-known example (see video). Should this reality have been concealed from the U.S. public and international opinion? Which was more serious – committing such crimes or revealing them to the public?

“The conditions in which Manning has been held, his unfair trial and the lack of transparency during the hearings speak volumes about the fate reserved for whistle-blowers and the way the rule of law is being flouted. Edward Snowden would have every reason to fear persecution, as defined by the Geneva Conventions, if he were to return to the United States.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “Will the resumption of the debate about protection of sources at the federal level suffice to overcome the many offensives against investigative journalism, such as the recent seizure of Associated Press phone records ? The outcome of the Manning trial unfortunately suggests the contrary.”

One journalist is currently imprisoned in the United States.