Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Berkeley Backs off Hero Proclamation for Soldier at Center of WikiLeaks Probe

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
Bay Area News Group East Bay
The Army private accused of giving sensitive wartime documents and a graphic combat video to the web site WikiLeaks.org did not gain hero status in the eyes of the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night.
In a 8-0 vote with one abstention, the council tabled the resolution brought by the city's Peace and Justice Commission, mostly because council members said they were reluctant to proclaim a hero someone who has neither admitted to nor been convicted of leaking the information.
The vote to declare Army Pfc. Bradley Manning a hero came on the same day that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail in London following his surrender to British police over a Swedish sex-crimes warrant. He denies any wrongdoing but has refused to voluntarily surrender for extradition to Sweden.
Manning was charged in May with illegally downloading classified material and faces a possible court martial, and he remains in jail.
Back in Berkeley, 10 supporters of the resolution spoke to the council during the public comment period and four spoke against it.
Bob Meola, the 58-year-old Peace and Justice commissioner who authored the resolution, said Berkeley should take a stand on the issue "because whoever did this deserves to be thanked by the American people. Democracy requires transparency. Nobody has pointed to one death because of these leaks. I hope that Berkeley can be a light to the rest of the cities in the country so that Bradley Manning can be released."
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, however, said the resolution "triggered a discussion and debate in this community and all over the world and that is a very positive step, but to proclaim someone a hero or a traitor, I'm not in a position to make that call."
Councilman Kriss Worthington said the city needs to wait and find out who is the person behind the release of the documents and video "and then give them an award."
"We are being asked to proclaim someone a hero who has not said he did it," Worthington said. "Are we helping him by finding him guilty just because we see it as an outstanding achievement?"
Council member Linda Maio said she refused "to be fodder for a media message that runs out and says 'Berkeley declares this guy a hero.'"
One speaker during the public comment period, Danny Gonzalez of Move America Forward, said he had brought a petition with 4,000 signatures urging Berkeley not to pass the resolution.

1 comment:

  1. Did anybody in the meeting (perhaps Danny Gonzalez of Move America Forward?) believe that the leaks are a bad idea, and that some sensitive government information should not get into the public hands? If so, I'd be interested to read about the arguments they produced.

    Also, Kriss Worthington might wish to reconsider the choice of language about "finding him guilty." I see the point, but it seems to me if Manning takes credit for the leaks, he is not guilty of anything until found so by a court of law, and even then this committee seems to be saying that they would not recognize the guilty verdict.

    As for Linda Maio, unless she wishes to present herself as a populist, surely she would be well advised to focus on what she believes is right and proper, and less on what others think of her and Berkeley. This is the old argument of integrity vs populism, aka the tail wagging the dog!