As the court martial of Bradley Manning nears a verdict, public opinion remains sharply divided over the consequences of his actions. The military’s restraints on media coverage may have reduced overall interest in the trial, but that hasn’t stopped dedicated citizens and journalists from subjecting every syllable of the proceedings to a steady flow of passionate, often partisan, scrutiny.

As well they should. The case centers on some of the most troubling issues of contemporary politics: excessive government secrecy, war crimes, the Arab Spring, encryption technology, and the use of solitary confinement as torture. Manning’s fate may set the precedent for how the United States regards other leakers, like Edward Snowden, as either whistleblowers or traitors.

To sort out these complex questions, ReasonTV invited three experts to discuss the trial. Eli Lake, the national security correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, is at once grateful to see cracks in wall of state secrecy, while also acknowledging that Manning’s actions have caused significant harm to American interests. Citizen journalist Alexa O’Brien defends Manning against the most serious charges of espionage and aiding the enemy, arguing that a close reading of the court records shows otherwise. Courthouse News reporter Adam Klasfeld questions the government’s decision to prosecute Manning as a spy, instead of a conscientious objector.

The three journalists were a combustible mix of personalities. Tempers flared, and clashes of informed opinion occasionally descended into personal invective. Lake and O'Brien locked horns over the issue of what, if any, harm was caused by Manning's disclosures. There were fierce disagreements about the most basic facts about the case. Yet throughout the quarreling, the conversation remained substantive, and it provides insight as to why this trial is among the most important in recent times. 

Runs about 35 minutes.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Camera by Josh Swain and Krainin.

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