On Tuesday, Democracy Now! interviewed Chelsea Manning in her first live TV interview. She was released from prison last May after serving seven years for leaking a trove of documents about Iraq and the Afghan wars and the State Department to WikiLeaks in 2010. Manning is now running against Sen. Ben Cardin in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Maryland, where the NSA is headquartered.
More from Chelsea Manning:
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read from BuzzFeed. “In the seven years since WikiLeaks published the largest leak of classified documents in history, the federal government has said they caused enormous damage to national security. But a secret, 107-page report, prepared by a Department of Defense task force and newly obtained by BuzzFeed News, tells a starkly different story: It says the disclosures were largely insignificant and did not cause any real harm to US interests.” Chelsea Manning?
CHELSEA MANNING: I mean, that’s what we’ve been saying this whole time. You know, they agreed with us. But instead, during the trial, they said “could have.” It was all about maybe. You know, what crime is it where you could have? You know, if I threw this rock, I could have broken a window. You know, and, of course it wasn’t going to cause any damage.
And the whole notion of national security, it’s a word that gets—it’s a phrase that gets used a lot in politics. But do you know what the definition of “national security” is? The definition of “national security” is that—anything of and relating to the national defense, meaning the military, or foreign relations, meaning the State Department. Anything can be construed as being national security. Those are—that’s an incredibly broad definition. And “interests” is—what is “interests”? Interests is whatever they want. So, if it’s whatever these institutions want, and it’s against their interests, which is against our interests, as people, then it’s a threat to national security. So, in a sense, everyone who goes against them is a threat to national security.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’m wondering—subsequent to your revelations, there was the revelations of Edward Snowden, the enormous impact it had on the American public in terms of understanding the surveillance state. Your advice to other people who are in network securities in other parts of the world in terms of potentially being whistleblowers, and the importance of being a whistleblower—
CHELSEA MANNING: Yes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —when you believe that something is unjust or is wrong, that an institution that they’re associated with is committing? What would be your advice to potential whistleblowers?
CHELSEA MANNING: You know, you’re in a better position to understand what the issue is and what you have to do. I can’t give people specific advice. What I can say is that there’s a lot of—and a lot of people in government and a lot of people in these positions already know that there are no safe channels to go through. Like we’ve had—you know, like I have a friend of mine, you know, Jesselyn Radack, who’s been on this show a lot, who has defended people, who have gone through the proper channels, from prosecution and from being targeted. The Insider Threat Program, whenever you—whenever you raise a concern, you are automatically listed under the Insider Threat Program as a potential threat, and placed under surveillance, under electronic surveillance or surveillance by your supervisors. That said, there are no safe channels. You have to make a decision as to what to do. And that’s my advice.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Michael Ratner, the late Michael Ratner, one of the founders of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who appeared on Democracy Now! in 2013, shortly after attending part of your court-martial, when you accepted responsibility for leaking information when leaking documents to WikiLeaks.
MICHAEL RATNER: It was one of the more moving days I’ve ever spent in a courtroom. You’ve heard from Bradley Manning once before, which was when he testified about the torture that happened to him. I was crying through that. This was amazing. I mean, he actually didn’t stand; he sat at the defense table. And he read his 35-page statement, which, sadly, we do not have a copy of, even though there’s nothing classified about that statement. And hopefully we’ll get it, because that is something that should be taught in every school in America.
He went through each of the releases that he took responsibility for, that you mentioned on the air, and he told us why he did it. And in each case, you saw a 22-year-old, a 23-year-old, a person of incredible conscience, saying, “What I’m seeing the United States do is utterly wrong. It’s immoral. The way they’re killing people in Iraq, targeting people for death, rather than working with the population, this is wrong.” And in each of these—each of these statements tells you about how he was doing it politically.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the late Michael Ratner, one of the founding attorneys of the Center for Constitutional Rights, in 2013, coming from your trial and coming on Democracy Now! the next day. Your thoughts on what Michael said? And would you do this again, if you had the chance?
CHELSEA MANNING: Look, I can’t go back and change history. I can’t reflect on every single moment that I’ve gone through my entire life. And I reflect a lot on all kinds of decisions throughout my life, mostly to do with relationships that I’ve had and jobs that I’ve held in the past and decisions that I’ve made, especially in regards to college. Should I have stayed in college? Should I have stayed at Starbuck’s?
That said, this couldn’t have happened any other way. It happened because of who I am and the values that I have and the time that I had and the means, the technology, that was available. And also, it almost didn’t happen. You know, I tried to—I tried to reach out through conventional journalists, if you will. And, you know, the technical complexities, they just couldn’t work around.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, wait for one second. Could you explain exactly what you did, for people who aren’t familiar with your course? When you were in Iraq, you got a hold of these documents. You saw what you described as the horror documented in the government’s own pages, and wanting to get it out, coming back to the United States. It wasn’t WikiLeaks you went to first.
CHELSEA MANNING: Right. Of course not. I mean, you know, they weren’t a thing yet. There weren’t a name. And, I mean, like I ran out of time. I didn’t have a whole lot of time. I had about 12 days, and three of those days were taken out by a snowstorm.
AMY GOODMAN: Before you were going back to Iraq.
CHELSEA MANNING: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: So you turned to The New York Times. You tried to reach out to them.
CHELSEA MANNING: Well, I reached out to The Washington Post first.
AMY GOODMAN: And they didn’t want the documents, or they did?
CHELSEA MANNING: I mean, it’s technology. Technology is the problem. You know, SecureDrop is something that came out of all of this. It’s now possible to reach out to The Washington Post and use these tools. Journalists didn’t really have an understanding as to the technical problems of the time.