Manning was being held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Va., where his attorney said he was being punished by undergoing inhumane treatment and isolation before receiving a fair trial. In April, Manning was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, where his attorney said he has received much better treatment.
Manning received criticism for the alleged information leak, including from President Barack Obama in April.
“He broke the law,” Obama said. “What he did was he (information) dumped.”
Obama also said Manning’s alleged leak was not the same as Daniel Ellsberg’s, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times.
“It wasn’t the same thing,” Obama said. “What Ellsberg released wasn’t classified the same way.”
Ellsberg agreed, but only to the extent that what he released was classified as “top secret,” whereas what Manning is accused of leaking was only labeled “secret.”
In a conference call with news outlets, Ellsberg, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other Manning supporters accused the Obama administration of using the 1917 Espionage Act in unintended ways.
“If President Nixon had made a comment like that during my trial, we certainly would have moved for a mistrial,” Ellsberg said. “I was the Bradley Manning of my day. I’m proud to say that, because like a lot of other Americans, if Bradley Manning did what he’s accused of, then I regard him as a great patriot who served his country very well, and he’s my personal hero.”
Ellsberg said there is currently no Official Secrets Act that criminalizes the release or retention of classified information without authorization, but if Manning were to be found guilty, it would in essence create such a precedent.
“All of the charges against Bradley Manning, including the military regulations that he’s alleged to have broken, should be dropped not only for that statement by the president, but for the gross governmental misconduct of his conditions for the last 10 months,” he said.
Assange also called Manning a hero. “(That’s) the most important year for journalism since World War II. On the other hand, we can see a year where this young man has been held in very difficult conditions,” Assange said. “That was a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but Bradley Manning, like all true heroes, apparently did not crack.”
Assange credited the leaked information with helping expose war crimes, spurring anti-corruption movements in India and Peru, and as one of the causes of the revolution in Tunisia, which led to what is now being called the “Arab Spring.”
“If (Attorney General) Eric Holder’s new interpretation of the Espionage Act is left to stand, it will criminalize all investigative journalism,” he said. “It will erect a situation where the collaboration between a source and a journalist is interpreted as a conspiracy to commit crime.”
Kevin Zeese, attorney for the Bradley Manning Support Network, said a pretrial hearing for Manning is expected in midsummer, and a trial may occur by late fall or early winter.