There has been a lot of legal debate throughout the U.S. over the last few weeks. Maybe that has dulled Americans' appetite for major trials.
One case in particular that is now reaching its climax has seemingly flown under the radar: that of Bradley Manning. Though the case will likely be a watershed moment in terms of journalism, whistleblowing, and national security policy, the Manning trial has not seen the same media attention given to other proceedings this summer.
And this is the biggest moment yet. After eight weeks of trial, scores of government witnesses, and six hours of closing argument, Pfc. Bradley Manning's military prosecutor, Capt. Ashden Fein, on Thursday got to his point: the WikiLeaks source who provided the controversial site with loads of classified documents is about to get what's coming to him.
What Fein said in those closing arguments was absolutely chilling.
“Pfc. Manning was not a humanist; he was a hacker,” Major Fein noted.
“He was not a whistle-blower. He was a traitor, a traitor who understood the value of compromised information in the hands of the enemy and took deliberate steps to ensure that they, along with the world, received it.”
The quote is scary.
Critics of this case have warned that a Manning conviction of “aiding the enemy” would criminalize journalism. Even here in this quote, Fein alludes to journalists as being "the hands of the enemy."
As the New York Times explains:
"As the trial has moved toward its conclusion, the more philosophical questions confronting [Col. Denise Lind] are re-emerging center stage — including whether WikiLeaks played a journalistic role and whether providing information to the anti-secrecy group was any different, for legal purposes, from providing it to a traditional news outlet."
It is believed that a guilty verdict for aiding the enemy would establish a government precedent that giving information to an outlet that publishes it online is the same as handing it over to an enemy, the Times adds.
The leash around the watch dog's neck is being pulled tighter.
The Fourth Estate is already in the government's cross-hairs. In a major ruling on press freedoms last week, a divided federal appeals court ruled that an investigative reporter for the New York Times, must testify in the criminal trial against his own sources after he was leaked information from them.
A Manning verdict is expected as early as Friday. More
America: It used to be 'Land of the free and home of the brave, It has however, become 'Land of the Paranoid and home of the National Defense Authorization Act.' Editor