Each day of Chelsea Manning’s trial, I would pull my rental car into the lot where media waited to be escorted into Fort Meade by the military. Just about every day Clark Stoeckley would be there with his WikiLeaks Truck daring the military to tell him he could not drive his truck on base. His truck would then sit parked by the media center all day as he drew his sketches—sometimes from the media center, sometimes from inside the courtroom.
Stoeckley’s book, The US vs. Private Chelsea Manning is the first book that gives the world an accessible account of what unfolded at Manning’s court martial.
It begins with a major pretrial hearing that took place in December 2011—the Article 32 hearing, where an investigative officer heard evidence to determine whether to refer the charges against Manning to a court martial. The book then proceeds to offer major highlights from all the pretrial hearings, which the vast majority of US media outlets ignored. And then, with great detail, it recounts what unfolded during the trial, including sentencing.
Excerpts from unofficial transcripts paid for by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, as well as transcripts journalist Alexa O’Brien produced, are used to recapture important exchanges that took place in the courtroom.
Many of the sketches may be familiar to those who followed and read my coverage of Manning’s trial. I regularly featured Stoeckley’s artwork in my posts. But he produced additional sketches for the book that were not completed during the court martial.
The “Collateral Murder” video sketches, the sketch of one of the Guantanamo camps, sketches of Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and others are a good creative touch. They ensure that the story of Manning’s prosecution does not stay confined to the rigid courtroom of Fort Meade.
Stoeckley also gives readers different angles for experiencing what the scene was like at the court martial. Having media credentials made it possible for him to sit on either side of the gallery, in the jury box or the media center, where a live feed was being projected. He could draw scenes from different vantage points.
The completed project is the result of a labor of love. Stoeckley explains in the foreword how he came to appreciate Manning’s disclosures, particularly the “Collateral Murder” video, decorated his truck with a WikiLeaks logo and the words, “Release Bradley Manning,” and toured Occupy encampments in the northeastern United States.
He then spent the next eighteen months organizing buses and vigils with activists, hitching rides with fellow journalists, and catching overnight trains to and from the pretrial hearings. “Dear friends let me crash on the floors and couches in their homes or motel rooms.”
Everyone should understand the military wanted to prosecute Manning with the least amount of transparency. They had to keep giving the public more and more information because the Center for Constitutional Rights sued and the few journalists covering proceedings would routinely protest. (The organization Freedom of the Press also seriously undermined military secrecy by funding stenographers so everyone in the world could view a record of how this was unfolding.)
Stoeckley’s book shows the military failed in its mission to keep the world from knowing how they pursued a truth-teller as if she were an aider and abettor of terrorists. His book celebrates the efforts of the few journalists who covered the proceedings, and others who fought to bring sunlight to the process making certain the military did not succeed.
Fort Meade was a less stale, stringent and soulless place when he was in the media center. I thank him for acknowledging the value of the journalism I did in the back pages of his book and welcome him to this Book Salon chat.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]