Famed "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" resister and gay activist Dan Choi spoke in defense of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning during a rally outside the gates of Fort Meade in Maryland.
Manning is suspected of downloading 260,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, videos of U.S. air strikes and U.S. military reports from Afghanistan and Iraq while serving as a low-ranking intelligence analyst in Iraq, and then providing them to WikiLeaks. One of the videos showed an American helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 11 civilians, including a Reuters journalist.
Choi was discharged from the Army in 2008 after he revealed that he was gay. He noted that as a servicemember he swore an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States.
"We fight here today on different battlefields but with the same goal, freedom and justice," the West Point educated Iraq veteran and Arabic translator said. "Our war has not ended. My name is Lieutenant Dan Choi and I am reporting for duty."
"I come from the gay community, the only community in the world that bases its membership on one thing, integrity," he continued. "In the face of consequences you show courage. They told us under 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' that certain information about us should be classified and hidden from other people because they said that good order and discipline would be compromised. The truth of ourselves, our identity, what's in our soul, our reputation as human beings, can never be hidden because it pollutes our soul -- it hurts the mission and everybody around us."
"Today, we deal with a society that has repealed 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' in the military. And I don't want to live in a society that replaces that 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' with a new 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' in society and national security. It is time that we unclassify the truth that we deserve to know. For that is what we swear to uphold, those Army values."
"We see the situation where our comrade is in shackles and chains, he is on trial. But I remind all of us gathered here today because Bradley Manning stood up for the truth, he is the most free among all of us. He is not the one on trial, the United States of America is on trial today. Our reputation, and what our country stands for."
Manning is facing charges that could potentially send him to prison for the rest of his life and the hearing on this sprawling U.S. military base is being held to decide whether he should face a court-martial.
The pre-trial hearing, which began Friday and could last up to a week, is being held in an austere courthouse at Fort Meade, headquarters of the top secret National Security Agency.
Manning’s supporters have been holding vigils and rallies outside the gates of Fort Meade and a number of his backers are attending the hearing.
Outside the court on Saturday some 200 activists protested the trial, denouncing U.S. authorities for suppressing information Manning allegedly sought to expose.
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube on December 18, below: