[See update at bottom]
The closing arguments are over and the Bradley Manning case is in the hands of a military judge . At the same time, Edward Snowden is holed up in Russia seeking asylum on the grounds that whistle blowers cannot receive justice in the U.S., a claim largely confirmed by the rabid mistreatment of Bradley Manning (and others before him) by the U.S. Department of Justice.
For most observers, Manning’s fate is a foregone conclusion. He will not be declared innocent because such a verdict does not suit the government’s purpose which is to make an example of him to discourage further revelations, by others, of highly embarrassing information about the government’s abuse of power.
But, the Manning trial also presents an interesting opportunity. While it’s the government’s three-year long abuse of Manning’s person and rights that provides clear justification for Snowden’s request for asylum in Russia, a tempered judgement followed by a light sentence for Manning could partly neutralize that justification in the eyes of many.
Governments rarely do anything for humanitarian reasons and it’s doubtful that any country offering Snowden asylum is doing so out of concern for Snowden or for human rights in general. They are doing it because they see a benefit for themselves that exceeds the cost. Snowden is a great propaganda opportunity for other governments to give the U.S. a taste of its own medicine, but that only works if the U.S. continues to reinforce its image as a bully toward those who would expose the truth.
Manning is old news. Most people don’t even know his trial is going on (largely because of the blackout by establishment news organizations presumably in cooperation with government). But Snowden has become a folk hero with a near unlimited capacity to be a perpetual embarrassment to many western governments by exposing the fact that the bulk of their surveillance efforts have little to do with terrorism and much to do with maintaining control over their own domestic populations.
It’s a no-brainer that lenient treatment of Manning could help the government advance the argument that the U.S., while far from welcoming whistle blowers, does not summarily execute them or lock them up for life. It might not only help their case for extradition of Snowden, it might also help them to get their hands on someone else who has successfully thrown the world’s only superpower into a desperate panic: Jullian Assange.
One thing is a certainty. The U.S. will stop at nothing to get their hands on Snowden. It is not bound by any legal or ethical constraints, it has no respect for the sovereignty of other nations or for international law, and it certainly doesn’t hold the moral high ground. If Manning’s verdict and sentencing reflects leniency, it is probably part of a bigger plan. The government’s obsession with getting Snowden shows their desperation. And far from losing the war, Snowden is actually gaining support as more people become aligned with the notion that the government really has abused its powers, thereby giving credibility to Snowden’s contention that he is actually doing a service for the country rather than trying to damage it. That is the last thing the U.S. government wants to see.
Washington will use Manning’s verdict to persuade the world community to extradite other whistleblowers back to the US, since the leaker was acquitted of the capital offense of aiding the enemy, former UK MI5 agent Annie Machon told RT.