Reader of the real news section around here know that Pfc. Bradley Manning is on trial for leaking "troves of material" to the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks. Even though Manning pleaded guilty to charges that would send him to prison for twenty years, the military and Obama administration are prosecuting him for aiding the enemy, a charge that could land him life in prison.
That prosecution doesn't sit well with some people, so a curious collection of celebrities, reporters and other people that no one on the web seems able to identify have come out in support of Manning with a confusing video where they declare "I Am Bradley Manning."
Their support seems to be based on Manning's leak of the video that showed 2007 Apache helicopter attack that killed 14 civilians, including a Reuters photographer. Here's the logic: the incident qualifies as a "war crime" and therefore Manning should be protected under whistleblower laws put in place to shield government employees who report wrongdoing.
They explicitly make their case by trotting out Daniel Ellsberg, the RAND corporation military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971. When Ellsberg says "I Am Bradley Manning," it's supposed to have some moral weight since the folks that made the video see Ellsberg as someone who was once deemed a threat by the government but was later hailed as a hero.
Also throwing in with Manning is Vietnam vet and noted conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone, a guy who at least has a long history of public stands on military and intelligence-related issues.
More curious is the appearance of two reporters who've written a lot about the case: Rolling Stone's muckraker Matt Taibbi and Truthdig's Chris Hedges. Neither has previously shown much sympathy for the government's case, but it's hard to pretend you've got an open mind about the case when you've already crossed the line to political advocacy.
Are the rest of these people famous? We recognize British citizen Russell Brand (star of Arthur), married actors Peter Sarsgaard (a military kid who starred in Jarhead and The Salton Sea) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight and White House Down), Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, techno musician Moby, actor and writer Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride and Rex the dinosaur in Toy Story), Marlo Thomas' husband Phil Donahue and several other people that no one online seems to have identified yet.
Notably absent from the video: Lady Gaga, whose name was used on the data disks that Manning labeled to look like mix CDs before he smuggled them out of the building.