Will Supreme Court Declare War on Whistleblowers?

• Supreme Court may decide the issue for you some day soon

By Pete Papaherakles

Army Private Bradley Manning, whose leaked video clip in 2010 exposed the murder of 11 innocent Iraqi civilians by a U.S. attack helicopter, is one of six whistle-blowers charged by the Obama administration for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He is held in prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas awaiting trial, most likely in August. If his case or any of the others ends up in the Supreme Court, as some expect will happen, a ruling in favor of the government would instantly criminalize all disclosures of classified information to the public.

The act has been used against whistle-blowers only three times before Obama took office.


Manning is accused of giving 700,000 hacked documents and video clips to whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. In the now notorious video clip of the helicopter killings, a Reuters reporter and his driver were also shown getting killed by the U.S. soldiers in an Apache helicopter.

Manning faces 22 charges under the Espionage Act including aiding the enemy, theft of public property or records and wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet. If convicted, he could get life in jail without parole.

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The other six leakers who are currently awaiting trial have also worked for various government agencies. They include: Shamai Leibowitz, a translator for the FBI; Thomas Drake, a whistle-blower for the NSA; Stephen Kim, who was with the State Department, and Jeffrey Sterling and John Kyriakou, who worked for the CIA.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published the video clips allegedly provided by Manning, is expected to be the seventh person to be charged in a leak case under the Act.

Daniel Ellsberg,who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, was charged under the Espionage Act and faced 12 felony charges and 115 years in prison. The Pentagon Papers was the informal name of the U.S. government’s secret encyclopedic history of the Vietnam War and the lead-up to it. Ellsberg eventually had the charges dropped due to government misconduct against him that included illegal wiretaps and burglarizing his psychiatrist’s office, for which President Richard Nixon faced impeachment hearings.

“Everything that Richard Nixon did to me, for which he faced impeachment and prosecution, which led to his resignation, is now legal under the Patriot Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Ellsberg in a recent interview with Chris Hedges of truthdig.com.

Although Ellsberg’s case was dismissed, this is not likely to happen today as the U.S. government seems headed into a police-state era.

In the upcoming election, perhaps it would be better for the government to change the title of president to “pharaoh” or “emperor,” and we, his humble servants, should address him as “your majesty.”

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Pete Papaherakles is a writer and political cartoonist for AFP and is also AFP’s outreach director. Pete is interested in getting AFP writers and editors on the podium at patriotic events. Call him at 202-544-5977 if you know of an event you think AFP should attend.