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Bradley Manning trial: Leakers Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg weigh in (+video)

Bradley Manning is a patriot responsible for 'the most influential leak in history,' WikiLeaks' Assange argues. Ellsberg warns the trial has grave consequences for democracy and journalism.

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The outcome of the Pfc. Bradley Manning trial has broad and grave consequences for America as a democracy, warns Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the classified Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers some 40 years ago, exposing widespread governmental misconduct.

Mr. Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who released some 700,000 classified documents online, is charged with violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy and could face life in prison.

In a conference call with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Friday afternoon, Mr. Ellsberg pointed out that President Obama has charged twice as many people under the Espionage Act as all previous presidents.

Yet Manning, rather than someone interested in aiding America’s enemies, is a patriot responsible for “without a doubt the most influential leak in history,” Mr. Assange argues. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cited documents given by Manning to WikiLeaks in his decision not to renew a Status of Forces Agreement with the US military, which in turn led to the formal end of the Iraq War, Assange noted. 

According to Amnesty International, the leaks were one of the leading factors in triggering protests that led to the Arab Spring, he added.

Mr. Ellsberg also reiterated warnings about the chilling impact the Manning trial could have on journalism and the interpretation of the First Amendment protecting freedom of the press.

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