One classified Army video that Manning passed to WikiLeaks showed an Apache helicopter gunship firing on Iraqis during an infamous July 2007 episode. Eleven Iraqis died in the attack.
“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” one Apache crewman says, at one point.
“Nice,” the other crewman added.
Manning’s stated motives in leaking the documents, and the myriad, sometimes graphic details he revealed about U.S. diplomacy and war-fighting, have made the Oklahoma native a hero to some. On Saturday afternoon, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others affiliated with the Bradley Manning Support Network rallied at the Fort Meade main gate, outside of Washington.
“We are all Bradley Manning,” demonstrators chanted.
New Jersey-based activist Nathan Fuller added, in an interview, that the 1,000-plus demonstrators Saturday hoped “to send a clear message that we will not tolerate Bradley Manning’s unjust court martial, and to thank him for his invaluable contributions toward peace.”
The media also has taken an intense, and periodically frustrated, interest in the case that began publicly with Manning’s arrest in May 2010.
Some 350 journalists requested credentials from the U.S. Army Military District of Washington to cover the trial but only 70 credentials were issued. In an unusual twist, the Freedom of the Press Foundation raised $57,000 in hopes of paying for stenographers to provide a public transcript.
The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, has already indicated that some of the trial testimony from 24 witnesses may be closed to prevent the release of classified information. Many trial documents likewise remain secret, prompting multiple lawsuits intended to compel greater disclosure, including one filed May 22 in federal court in Baltimore.
“The press and public are unable to engage in careful observation and analysis of the issues arising during what is arguably one of the most controversial, high-profile court-martials since the trial of Lt. William Calley for the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam,” attorneys for the Center for Constitutional Rights and other advocates wrote in a brief.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces previously ruled in a 3-2 decision that it lacked the authority to order Lind to grant more public access.
Underscoring how secrets and surprises have become the recurring motif of Manning proceedings, an Army Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room section created for court martial documents that have been cleared for publication turned blank on Saturday, two days before trial.