HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Some supporters of an Army private charged with aiding the enemy released a leaked audio recording Tuesday of Pfc. Bradley Manning explaining why he sent hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation, a group co-founded by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, posted the 68-minute recording of Manning’s voice on its website. The group also posted an edited, five-minute version on YouTube, featuring Manning’s rationale for sending WikiLeaks an unclassified video of a deadly 2007 Army helicopter attack on civilians in Iraq.
The recording was from a Feb. 28 court-martial pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. News organizations reported on Manning’s’ statement at the time, but spectators were prohibited from recording the proceedings. Those in the courtroom were searched for recording equipment beforehand, and about two dozen reporters watching a closed-circuit video feed in a separate building had to agree in writing not to record the hearing.
The recording posted by the foundation contains typing sounds that suggest it was made in the media center.
The Army said in a statement it has notified the military judge that there was a violation of the “Rules for Court.”
“The U.S. Army is currently reviewing the procedures set in place to safeguard the security and integrity of the legal proceedings, and ensure Pfc. Manning receives a fair and impartial trial,” the statement read.
Ellsberg said he doesn’t know who made the recording or gave it to his group, which raises funds for open-government advocates, including WikiLeaks. The 81-year-old former Pentagon analyst said in a telephone interview from Berkeley, Calif., that a foundation member brought the recording to the group’s directors, who decided after a heated debate to publish it.
He said Manning, who has been locked up for more than 2 1/2 years awaiting trial, deserves to have his voice heard outside the courtroom.
“We thought that it was time for the public to hear his voice for the first time,” Ellsberg said.
In his statement, Manning acknowledged he was the source of the leaks. He said he leaked the material, including State Department cables and secret battleground reports, to expose the American military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the same hearing, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 reduced charges. But the government still intends to prove him guilty of all 22 original counts, including aiding the enemy and espionage, at a trial beginning in June. Aiding the enemy carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The Bradley Manning Support Network, which raises funds for Manning’s defense, praised the release of the recording.
“If it were not for the unnecessary and unwarranted pretrial confinement imposed by the military, Bradley would have been free to read this statement without limitation. There is no doubt that Bradley meant to have his statement shared widely,” Jeff Paterson, a support group board member, said in an email.
Paterson said the support network wasn’t involved in recording or releasing the audio.
Manning attorney David Coombs didn’t respond to questions from the AP.
Military legal expert Victor M. Hansen, a professor at the New England School of Law in Boston, said court-martial rules don’t specifically prohibit recording, but military judges have discretion to impose such restrictions.
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