The New Political Prisoners: Leakers, Hackers and Activists

Meet the new generation of dissidents being locked up for taking a stand against the government

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Bradley Manning
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Bradley Manning

WHO: Bradley Manning, 25

THE CHARGE: As Janet Reitman describes in her latest Rolling Stone feature, "Bradley Manning's War," Manning is the Army private who has been accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables to Wikileaks in 2010 – along with a clip of U.S. forces opening fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians, later released under the name "Collateral Murder."

PROBLEMS WITH THE CASE: According to government prosecutors, the documents that Manning gave to Wikileaks contained information that could be used to attack U.S. interests and inflame anti-American sentiment, which is why he has been charged with aiding the enemy. This is a serious logical stretch: Manning said in a statement that he specifically selected information that would shame the U.S. for its actions without threatening national security. In fact, the Wikileaks document releases' primary effect was to deeply embarrass the U.S. government – something authorities seem to consider a greater crime than the possible killing of civilians documented in the "Collateral Murder" footage.

THE PUNISHMENT: After his arrest in May 2010, Manning was subjected to harsh treatment that has been widely condemned as torture by groups such as the ACLU. He was kept in solitary confinement for nearly a year. While in jail at Quantico marine base in Virginia, he spent 23 hours a day locked in his cell and was not allowed to use the bathroom without supervision. He was also placed on suicide and prevention of injury watches, which meant he was forced to strip, was not allowed reading material and had his glasses taken away. Manning recently passed his 1,000th day in custody. He was transferred to Kansas' Fort Leavenworth in April 2011 to await trial; if convicted, he faces life in prison.