Wednesday 18 January 2017

The End of Whistleblower Hunting?

The Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning has had her sentence commuted by the executive order of outgoing US president Barack Obama. She will be released in May this year. Originally she had been due for parole in 2045; it's unlikely she would have lived that long because of the deterioration in her mental and physical health. She is only "she" and not "he" because she went on hunger strike to force the government to give her sex change treatment. Bradley Manning had been a solider serving in Iraq and had approached Wikileaks to expose an attempted cover-up by the US government. In 2007 a helicopter crew had shot dead twelve journalists in Baghdad, mistaking them for terrorists. The government tried to suppress all information about their deadly blunder. Thanks to Manning they failed. However he was brutally punished for his disobedience by the vengeful authorities, being put in jail for what was in practice a life sentence. Murderers receive more leniency; let that be a warning to anybody else contemplating doing the same! I am suspicious that Obama waited until the very end of his presidency before issuing the commutation, no doubt motivated by political considerations. He will now be remembered as "the president who freed Chelsea Manning!"; he's not going to wait a few days and let Donald Trump get that accolade. This is not a pardon and Manning will still have this offence on her criminal record. However that can be quibbled over later; the main thing is she will soon be free... as she should have always been. Source: The White House deny it, but it's likely this decision was finalized after an announcement made by Julian Assange a few days earlier. Assange has been under siege in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since August 2012, see: Like Manning, his health is suffering as a result. He has little sunlight and fresh air and it's beginning to show in his appearance. He has always called for the release of Chelsea Manning and has offered to hand himself over to the law if the US government frees Manning. This is a calculated risk of course, but the original charges of sexual assault in Sweden that he was accused of have been legally discredited so his position is now much stronger. However, there's a bit of a "prisoner's dilemma" here. I hope Assange won't trust the US government at its word and hand himself over now. He should wait until Manning is physically outside the prison gates before stepping out of the embassy. Source: What will this mean for Edward Snowden and other insiders who have spoken out? Who knows, but if Trump lives up to what he's promised to be, the freeing of Chelsea Manning could just be the start of an ongoing process. If the heat is turned off them all then does this mean the end of the age of whistleblower persecution?

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