Bradley Manning: Traitor or Martyr?

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. Bradley Manning could spend the rest of his life in jail. That's what's at stake in his military trial, which is expected to start in June. The Army private already faces 20 years in prison, after pleading guilty to leaking hundreds of thousands of State Department documents to Wikileaks. But prosecutors are still looking to convict him on a charge of aiding the enemy, which could result in a life sentence. Two years ago, PJ Crowley resigned as State Department spokesman after criticizing the way Manning was being treated while in detention. Now Crowley's urging the government not to turn Manning into a martyr.

PJ Crowley: He's a far more sympathetic figure internationally than he should be, and that sympathy is being exploited by our global competitors. My concern is that if we continue to pursue this charge of aiding the enemy, we risk turning Bradley Manning from a misguided soldier who committed a significant misjudgment, has harmed the national interest, and we risk turning him into a global martyr.

Werman: How much damage do you think the leaks actually caused to US foreign policy?

Crowley: Well, I think on a country by country basis there was some impact, but thankfully, through some hard work by those in government we have managed the fallout of the release of Wikileaks cables. Most importantly, in terms of the ability of the United States to do what it needs to do around the world, thankfully we've retained that potential.

Werman: Details, though, of ongoing military and intelligence operations, PJ Crowley, were leaked by Bradley Manning. Individuals like informers were put at real risk, so that may not be a strategic danger to the US. I mean, it's still a very real danger for those individuals affected. I mean, isn't that aiding the enemy?

Crowley: Well, you have to define who's the enemy, in terms of the release of raw intelligence that were part of the trove of documents that Manning gave to Julian Assange. Yes, that had an impact and that is the basis for Bradley Manning's ongoing prosecution. The military justice system is about maintaining good order and discipline. So Manning has pled guilty to a number of charges that potentially will put him in jail for 20 years. Now you have to evaluate pursuing the larger charge of aiding the enemy against the strategic cost of keeping Bradley Manning on a global stage for the foreseeable future. Justice has been served. The United States military has been able to enforce to those in the ranks that if you violate your trust, if you fail to protect classified information, there will be consequences.

Werman: PJ Crowley, where in the world have you seen countries milking the Bradley Manning story and scoring PR points?

Crowley: Many countries are now expanding their diplomatic reach. You've got Russia, China, other countries that have created global television networks, are using and exploiting social media to a much more significant extent. I was recently on a network called RT, Russia Television. It's Russia's equivalent of our Voice of America. And they are very much attuned and exploiting not only the Bradley Manning case but also the ongoing situation at Guantanamo. You also have the issue of drones, where we are taking actions without necessarily understanding the external costs that come with those actions. We tend to ignore these external costs, and over time, the potential exists that they will erode international perception of the United States and that will affect our global leadership.

Werman: Finally, let me flip the first question I asked you earlier on its head. Do you believe the release of the State Department documents by Wikileaks has done any good?

Crowley: I don't think it's done any good.

Werman: I mean, the transparency, has it paid off at all? The involuntary transparency, I must say.

Crowley: There are some global analysts who have looked through what has come to light and their opinion of the United States has gone up. This is a case of forced transparency. I do think that we as a government should be more transparent. We have a good story to tell. But I certainly think that there's a better way to become more transparent than sending hundreds of thousands of cables to an outlet like Wikileaks.

Werman: PJ Crowley, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, currently teaching at George Washington University. Thanks for your time.

Crowley: Thank you, Marco.

Werman: We have a lot more on the Bradley Manning case at TheWorld.org.