Manning sentencing focuses on wrong “chilling effect”

State Dept. says leaks chilled foreign relations, but Manning case is about chilling dissent, whistle-blowing

Topics: Patrick Kennedy, Bradley Manning, bradley manning trial, Fort Meade, chilling effect, Whistleblowers, whistle-blowers, WikiLeaks, John Kiriakou, ,

Senior State Department official Patrick Kennedy testified in the sentencing portion of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial on Monday. The point of bringing State Department testimony on to the stand at this point in the military trial is to attempt to establish the damage caused to U.S. interests by Manning’s leaks. According to Kennedy, the release of the WikiLeaks cables had a “chilling effect” on U.S. diplomatic relations overseas.

“These disclosures had a chilling effect on foreign officials,” said Kennedy. Reporting from Fort Meade, Kevin Gosztola noted that Kennedy claimed “that the State Department has had situations in which individuals have felt they ‘don’t have the same ability to engage in the level of full and frank discussion’ prior to the disclosures.” As Gosztola pointed out, however, Kennedy said that he had only heard from a handful of associates that they felt diplomatic speech had been chilled by Manning’s actions and the state department official could give little content to his claim.

“How much should some speculative ‘chilling effect’ factor in to Manning’s sentence [which could total up to 136 years], especially if only a few diplomats have expressed this feeling of being ‘chilled?’”asked Gosztola.

Kennedy is right that the Manning case has had a chilling effect — he’s just talking about the wrong one. In line with comments made Tuesday by CIA whistle-blower John Kiriakou (currently in prison for leaking information to the press about Bush-era torture programs), Manning’s ordeal is part of a larger war on whistle-blowers, with a clear aim to chill those who would follow in Manning’s footsteps. As Kiriakou wrote in the Guardian Tuesday:

Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, declared a war on whistle-blowers virtually as soon as they assumed office. Some of the investigations began during the Bush administration, as was the case with NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake, but Espionage Act cases have been prosecuted only under Obama. The president has chosen to ignore the legal definition of whistle-blower – any person who brings to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse or illegality – and has prosecuted truthtellers.

As I wrote earlier this week in regards to what’s at stake in Manning’s sentencing, the U.S. government has turned the soldier into an example such that anyone who speaks out against the actions of the U.S. government or military like Manning can fear the treatment Manning has received. I noted, “It’s a truth Ed Snowden knows and fears all too well.”

Last week, the Pentagon official who oversaw the review of WikiLeaks fallout told the Fort Meade courtroom last week that not one U.S. death could be attributed to Manning’s actions. There is some irony that the worst fallout the State Department could note from Manning’s actions was a speculated “chilling effect” — as it is with the intention of creating a deep chill that government prosecutors have fiercely pursued the whistle-blower.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...