Bradley Manning Convicted Guilty of Espionage
While Pfc. Bradley Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy on Tuesday, he was convicted guilty of lesser charges, including espionage. If he receives the maximum sentences for the crimes for which he was convicted guilty, then he could face 136 years in prison — a de facto life sentence. Manning was charged with espionage, aiding the enemy, and stealing government property for his role in leaking confidential government material to Wikileaks. Among the materials Manning leaked were a video showing soldiers in Baghdad shooting unarmed civilians from an Apache helicopter, over 250,000 secret diplomatic cables, and the infamous Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs, all of which were published by Julian Assange’s Wikileaks organization.
Although some expressed relief that Manning was not convicted guilty of aiding the enemy — thus narrowly avoiding a precedent that could affect journalists for generations — Assange warned that the conviction sets a dangerous precedent nonetheless. In his public remarks, he said, “This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage.’”
Manning’s sentencing phase begins on Wednesday. After the sentencing, legal experts believe the case will be appealed to a higher appeals court and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Obama Meets with Israeli and Palestinian Negotiators
U.S. President Barack Obama met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the White House as peace talks resumed. Coming on the heels of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to release over 100 Palestinian prisoners, one of the Palestinian’s terms for beginning peace talks, Obama intended to continue Secretary of State John Kerry’s progress in creating an open dialogue. The talks, which are likely to last nine months, are likely to center around a two-state solution, borders, and security.
On the topic of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Kerry said, “A viable two-state solution is the only way this conflict can end. And there is not much time to achieve it. And there is no other alternative.” He added that the parties have agreed that all of the core issues and peripheral issues are on the negotiating table.
Obama Gives Economic Address, Lays Out Economic Deal
Obama offered a “grand bargain” on the economy at a Chatanooga, TN Amazon distribution center. With a primary goal of breaking through partisan congressional gridlock, Obama proposed a corporate tax cut from 35% to 28% and increased infrastructure spending on roads, bridges, community colleges, and manufacturing facilities. Expressing the importance of this plan, he said, “If we don’t make these investments and reforms, we might as well throw up the white flag while the rest of the world forges ahead in a global economy. And that does nothing to help the middle class.”
Before Obama delivered his speech, House majority leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement through his spokesman criticizing Obama’s plan, saying, “Republicans want to help families and small businesses, too. This proposal allows President Obama to support President Obama’s position on taxes and President Obama’s position on spending, while leaving small businesses and American families behind.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) affirmed this view, adding, “[Obama] might call his plan a grand bargain. But I call it a raw deal.” In response to these criticisms, White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri said, “It would be unfortunate if the House Republican leadership is closing the door on a proposal that’s going to help businesses and help create middle-class jobs from the start.”
MIT Releases Report on Aaron Swartz Case
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a report about its role in the Federal charges against activist Aaron Swartz which led to his suicide in January. In the report, MIT acknowledges that the university missed an opportunity to “demonstrate the leadership that we pride ourselves on” based on its reputation “for promoting open access to online information, and for dealing wisely with the risks of computer abuse”. However, the report’s authors were careful to insist that the university did not target Swartz. The report suggests that MIT took a passive role and did not seek federal prosecution or imprisonment. MIT’s president, L. Rafael Reif, said, “I am confident that MIT’s decisions were reasonable, appropriate, and made in good faith.”
Activist Lawrence Lessig took issue with MIT’s claims that they were a neutral party in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz, writing, “…[I]f indeed MIT recognized [Swartz's innocence under MIT's "open-access" policies], and didn’t explicitly say either privately or publicly that Aaron was likely not guilty of the crime charged, then that failure to speak can’t be defended by the concept of ‘neutrality’.”