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What you can't see on CNN in America: Scahill, Manning and Blackwater

transcriber's picture

Because it's on CNN International.

"He wasn’t known at the time. This is before WikiLeaks. And he actually wrote in his initial e-mail to me, he basically said that he was horrified at the idea that Blackwater was getting away with the crimes that it had committed in Iraq and he wanted them to be investigated."

Video and transcript below the fold.

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CNN International: Investigative journalist on Manning verdict
Bradley Manning: Whistleblower or Traitor?
Hala Gorani interviews Jeremy Scahill
July 30, 2013


CNN Hala Gorani: Bradley Manning was a source for my next guest at one point, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, whose latest book is called Dirty Wars, also the name of the accompanying documentary film. Jeremy Scahill, thanks so much for being with us.

Jeremy Scahill: Thank you.

CNN Hala Gorani: What do you make of the fact that the most spurious charge, aiding the enemy, did not stick?

Jeremy Scahill: Well, I mean first of all it was an insidious charge to begin with, not just against Bradley Manning, but also it had far-reaching implications for all of us, for journalists and for ordinary citizens who use the internet. Basically what that charge said is if you provide information to anyone that’s able to publish it and someone like Osama bin Laden is able to then read it, you have aided the enemy, meaning that the New York Times publishing information that the U.S. could determine is helpful to Al Qaeda or Al Shabaab in Somalia, they could make an argument that you’re actively aiding the enemy. They don’t even need to prove that you have an intent to do so.

CNN Hala Gorani: And in the internet age, anything that you publish anywhere can be seen pretty much by anyone with an internet connection.

Jeremy Scahill: Right. And during the course of the Bradley Manning trial, the judge asked at one point, if Manning had given these documents to the New York Times or another respectable media outlet instead of WikiLeaks, would you still assert that it was aiding the enemy and would you prosecute them? And the prosecutor said yes.

CNN Hala Gorani: Uh huh. Right.

Jeremy Scahill: Just to give you a sense that they view WikiLeaks in the same way as the New York Times. So that’s chilling.

CNN Hala Gorani: Right. So which means that investigative reporters who rely for their work on leaks – and by the way, you were at one point in touch with Bradley Manning, but at first you didn’t know that it was him, right?

Jeremy Scahill: Yeah, it was strange. I was working on an investigation into the private security company Blackwater and I had gotten a note from someone that gave me a tip that Erik Prince, the owner of that company, was intending to leave the United States to move to Abu Dhabi. And I pursued that story, and it turned out it was true, and I broke that story, and I had no idea that the person that sent me that was Bradley Manning.

CNN Hala Gorani: And how did you find out?

Jeremy Scahill: Years later someone who was working on a book about Bradley Manning called me and said, “You know, I’m talking to people who have been in touch with Bradley Manning.” And I said, “Well, I’ve never been in touch with Bradley Manning.” And he goes, “Oh, my understanding is that you were.” And I said, “Well, no, your understanding is wrong.” And he then said to me, “Can you check this e-mail address?” And I put in the e-mail address and sure enough I had been communicating with him. It just, his name didn’t register with me. He wasn’t known at the time. This is before WikiLeaks. And he actually wrote in his initial e-mail to me, he basically said that he was horrified at the idea that Blackwater was getting away with the crimes that it had committed in Iraq and he wanted them to be investigated.

CNN Hala Gorani: Did he sound like an idealist, like a young man who just wanted the truth to come out, who just wanted to right a moral wrong, in his view?

Jeremy Scahill: That was my sense from it. And also, you know, the only time we’ve ever been able to hear Bradley Manning in his own words was some months ago when an audio recording leaked from the court martial proceedings against him and you heard Bradley Manning, who had been characterized as sort of this timid, frightened guy in a corner cowering, who was suicidal, you hear him in a very calm, collected voice explain exactly why he did what he did, and I think it gave lie to a lot of the propaganda about him.

CNN Hala Gorani: But let’s be clear. What he did was illegal. Should he have been prosecuted?

Jeremy Scahill: Well, he himself pled guilty to around 10 counts against him, and I think that what we all should be clear on here is that he has taken responsibility for his actions. What he’s disputing is that he did it to aid any of America’s enemies, that he did it in the interest of being some kind of an espionage agent, or that he did it for nefarious purposes to harm the United States. What he’s saying is, yes, I did these things, and I will accept the consequences for it, but I did it because I love my country and I felt that crimes were being committed that the American people had a right to know about.

CNN Hala Gorani: But some people in the U.S. and elsewhere feel he shouldn’t be prosecuted at all.

Jeremy Scahill: Yeah, well, I mean I understand that argument, and I think you could make a reasonable argument. Look, if you look at the Collateral Murder video, as it was called, where you have this Apache helicopter gunning down civilians including media workers from the Reuters news agency –

CNN Hala Gorani: And there it is, by the way, I want to tell our viewers that’s what they’re seeing. This is what was essentially the crown jewel, if you will, released.

Jeremy Scahill: This kicked it all off, yeah.

CNN Hala Gorani: It really did. And this is what Julian Assange presented to journalists with the sort of like arrows pointing to the camera of one of the Reuters journalists there, and it is very chilling.

Jeremy Scahill: And they also shot people intentionally who were trying to help the wounded. They were just gunning them down. What happened to the people that did this action? Are they being court martialed? Are they being prosecuted? So I think people who look at what Manning did, the exposure of assassination squads in Afghanistan, the U.S. turning a blind eye to Iraqi surrogates torturing prisoners in Iraq, we know about this because of Bradley Manning.

CNN Hala Gorani: I think, Jeremy, the issue here is people will agree with you that this documentation and this type of material should be made available to the public, but it’s the way in which it was made available, essentially breaking a law, that you’re leaking classified information, that it should have been taken up the chain of command internally.

Jeremy Scahill: Right. So here’s my response to that. Look at the case of Thomas Drake, the famed NSA whistleblower. Thomas Drake was in the U.S. military and worked at the NSA for 30 years. He started to see wrongdoing after 9/11 within the NSA and he took it up his chain of command. He never went public with it. He was then prosecuted under the Espionage Act for doing what those critics say that Manning should have done.

CNN Hala Gorani: So what choice did –

Jeremy Scahill: And he had his life ruined. He works at an Apple store right now selling iPhones after having spent 30 years in service for the U.S. government.

CNN Hala Gorani: What should happen, then? I mean, what should essentially the rules be governing, the framework governing essentially leakers, whistleblowers who feel that they’ve seen something wrong and they want to make it available either to their superiors or to the public?

Jeremy Scahill: I would say that the position that candidate Senator Obama laid out in 2008 when he was running for president should be the standard, that whistleblowers should have protections under federal law. And part of what’s chilling about the Manning thing is I think it is meant to send a message to future whistleblowers that you could serve life in prison or get the death penalty for speaking out, and that’s pretty chilling.

CNN Hala Gorani: And, quickly, you mentioned what Obama’s promise was. When he was president elect he had a website called in which he wrote this: “Such acts of courage and patriotism should be encouraged rather than stifled. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who have exposed waste, fraud and abuse of authority in government.”

Jeremy Scahill: Right. He’s done the exact opposite, as you point out, using the Espionage Act, also going after journalists, using phone records, this case of Jim Risen, the New York Times reporter, now being ordered to testify against one of his sources – there’s a real war on real journalism in this country and I think all of us, Hala, you and I and other journalists, have an obligation to stand up to it.

CNN Hala Gorani: Jeremy Scahill, thanks very much. The author of Dirty Wars and the documentary of the same name is also out. Thanks so much for joining us.

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