A foundation dedicated to promoting and funding transparency journalism has released a recording of Pfc. Bradley Manning reading a statement he made in military court at Fort Meade about releasing United States government documents to WikiLeaks.
The recording from the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) was covered by NBC’s “The Today Show” at 7am EST. The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald, a board member of the foundation, also put up a post highlighting significant excerpts of his statement.
Full audio of Manning can be listened to by clicking on the player here:
In a release on the foundation’s website, FPF notes, “While unofficial transcripts of this statement are available, this marks the first time the American public has heard the actual voice of Manning.”
Freedom of the Press Foundation is dedicated to supporting journalism that combats overreaching government secrecy. We have been disturbed that Manning’s pre-trial hearings have been hampered by the kind of extreme government secrecy that his releases to WikiLeaks were intended to protest. While reporters are allowed in the courtroom, no audio or visual recordings are permitted by the judge, no transcripts of the proceedings or any motions by the prosecution have been released, and lengthy court orders read on the stand by the judge have not been published for public review.
FPF, which partly decided to start its organization to ensure the flow of donations were able to resume to WikiLeaks, has not been publishing leaks. The foundation realized, “We had a unique opportunity to bring some small measure of transparency directly by allowing the world to hear for itself the voice of someone who took a controversial and important stance for government transparency.”
The foundation hopes ”this recording will shed light on one of the most secret court trials in recent history, in which the government is putting on trial a concerned government employee whose only stated goal was to bring attention to what he viewed as serious governmental misconduct and criminal activity.” It also would like to see “prompt additional analysis of these proceedings by other journalistic institutions and the public at large.”
“While we are not equipped (technically or as a matter of human resources) to receive leaked information” and do not plan to receive “leaks” in the future, “we are proud to publish and analyze this particular recording because it is so clearly matches our mission of supporting transparency journalism,” the foundation declares.
Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras edited a video of Manning’s voice describing what he thought when he first watched the “Collateral Murder” video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Iraq and why he decided to release the video to WikiLeaks:
I have been regularly attending Bradley Manning’s court martial proceedings. I was able to hear Manning deliver the statement myself like the twenty or thirty people in the public gallery of the courtroom. However, I did not sit back and listen to every word he was saying and fully take in the meaning. There are many parts of Manning’s statement that I am certain I do not remember hearing because I thought I would not hear him say the words again.
The court martial has been conducted with a layer of secrecy that is unjustified. I, along with other journalists, have been plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to force the military to make court documents available in a timely fashion.
Last week, CCR submitted an additional declaration I drafted to a military appeals court currently hearing the case:
On February 26, 2013, Judge Lind read her ruling on the defense’s speedy trial motion in open court. It took two hours for her to complete reading this order. The order contained a large number of dates and abbreviations for government agencies and other military terminology that might have been readily comprehensible in a written document but that we in the press could scarcely keep up with when listening to Judge Lind’s rapid-fire oral delivery. A colleague of mine in the press room calculated that Judge Lind was reading at a rate of 180 words per minute, and that the entire ruling contained at least 23,000 words, an estimate which comports with my observations as well. (For comparison, a very good professional typist can manage about 80 words per minute, and my understanding is that the absolute maximum speed at which humans can type for extended periods is approximately 150 words per minute.) [emphasis added]
Manning read his statement two days later and, when he read his statement, his reading was not much slower. The only reason why I did not become frustrated with trying to keep up with the statement was because each paragraph seemed to contain a new detail about what he did that I had long been waiting to hear from him. It also contained new details in his story that I never imagined had taken place (like, for example, trying to go to the press before submitting the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs to WikiLeaks or researching the sets of documents or reading about the “Collateral Murder” video before deciding to submit them to WikiLeaks.)
When I return to Fort Meade in April, I will undoubtedly hear about the release of this audio recording from military Public Affairs Officers. I may even receive a press release from officers at some point reminding the press explicitly of the rules: that we are not to use recording devices. At the moment, I think the recording was made inside the courtroom. If it was recorded from inside the media center, one would be able to hear members of the press pool making noise and reacting to Manning’s statement.
The only damage that will come from this leak is the military will feel embarrassed it cannot properly secure the court martial proceedings in the way the military desires. The proceedings will be able to continue appropriately. The source who engaged in an act of forced transparency will see Fort Meade re-establish control over the flow of information.
It was long overdue. The public deserved to hear the voice of the soldier who risked his livelihood and future plead guilty and describe in detail what he did.
Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who is also a board member and co-founder of FPF, has a reaction to hearing audio of Manning’s statement up at Huffington Post. He writes:
Whoever made this recording, and I don’t know who the person is, has done the American public a great service. This marks the first time the American public can hear Bradley Manning, in his own voice explain what he did and how he did it.
After listening to this recording and reading his testimony, I believe Bradley Manning is the personification of the word whistleblower.