This week marks a kind of double anniversary.
Two years ago on this date, Julian Assange was in Iceland readying the release of the shocking material that would catapult his group, WikiLeaks (and himself) to worldwide fame: the "Collateral Murder" video, an aerial view of U.S. Apache helicopters firing on Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists in 2007, plus celebratory dialogue from the gunners. It would be the first of four major WikiLeaks releases that year, as it was followed by the Afghanistan and Iraq "war logs" and "Cablegate."
One man has been accused of leaking all of that (and more), and we mark a separate anniversary related to PFC Bradley Manning.
A year ago this month, protests were held here and abroad, calling for Manning's release from semi-solitary confinement, under inhumane conditions, at the Quantico base in Virginia. He had been on a "perosnal injury" watch for months (despite his protests), rarely let out of his cell, forced to sleep without a standard pillow and blanket, and even at times stripped naked at night. Protesters were arrested at the White House -- and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's chief spokesman, P.J. Crowley, had been forced out when he protested these conditions.
All of this would help provoke Manning's transfer to Leavenworth prison in Kansas in April 2011, where he would enjoy more freedom and privacy. But one factor remains: nearly two years after his arrest, in May 2010, he still has not faced his court-martial trial on the 22 charges brought against him -- including "aiding the enemy," which could bring the death sentence (though likely lead to life in prison instead).
This week, a book about this two year period that I've written with Kevin Gosztola has been published: Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning. As we point out near the close of our story: "His court martial was expected to begin this August, even though Manning's defense had been saying the government could hold the trial in May. This means that when Manning goes on trial he will have been in confinement for eight hundred days. "
The book brings this home by tracing Manning's saga from his arrest and brutal incarceration to the present day, with a day-by-day account of the hearings, including testimony by Adrian Lamo. Gosztola, who assisted me on my two previous books on this subject and now writes daily for Firedoglake.com, was one of the very few journalists who attended both of the key court martial hearings for Manning: last December and then just two weeks ago. So the book, in both print and as an e-book, is amazingly up to date.
The book concludes with Gosztola raising questions after the latest hearing in mid-March: "Goal? Aggravate and bother media to the point that they wonder if it is even worth it to cover the proceedings? Lose them somewhere along the way to the actual start of Manning's trial? That way when the date finally comes for the trial the press won't really know the scale of the games played by the government to interfere with the ability of Manning's lawyers to defend him.
"Or, more insidious, prolong the pre-trial. Make the defense choose between a speedy trial or fighting for the right to evidence and potential witnesses to mount a proper defense. It's up to Manning, but at this rate, he could be in pre-trial confinement for almost a thousand days before he finally gets to the first day of his trial."
The new Manning book is just out in both print and e-book. Mitchell's other current book is "Journeys With Beethoven." He has written a dozen previous books and blogs daily at The Nation.