If President Barack Obama wants to keep one of his foremost 2008 campaign promises, he should issue a blanket pardon for all of those brave people faced with imprisonment for attempting to expose the U.S. government’s crimes during the so-called War on Terror. After all, many of us voted for him because the onetime Constitutional law professor had vowed to reverse the George W. Bush Administration’s betrayal of the Constitution.
Sadly, while Obama has proved to be a considerable improvement over Bush in many ways, his record in protecting those who revealed the horrifying abuses of our nationalsecurity state has been abysmal. Instead of honoring these truthtellers, the Obama Administration has used the century-old Espionage Act—designed to punish spies—to instead silence legitimate critics of the government and has done so more often than all previous administrations combined.
One of those indicted for violating the Espionage Act and convicted by a military tribunal was Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning). The former Army analyst, who told the tribunal she became a whistleblower “to show the true cost of war,” is now serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Manning’s trove of revelations—most notably a video showing American helicopters firing upon and killing innocent civilians, including news correspondents, in Iraq—were primarily published by Australian Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks website in 2010. Under threat of prosecution by the U.S. government, Assange has spent the past five years in some form of detention in the United Kingdom—first in solitary in a London jail, then under house arrest.