California Town Mulls Resolution to Honor Army Private Accused of Passing Secret Info to WikiLeaks
Amid calls from some politicians to press treason charges -- which could carry the death penalty -- against whoever leaked secret cables to WikiLeaks, the Berkeley, Calif., City Council is entertaining a resolution to declare that an Army private accused of leaking some classified information to the website is an American hero.
City Peace and Justice Commissioner Bob Meola, who authored the resolution, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Pfc. Bradley Manning, 22, is a patriot who deserves a medal.
"If he did what he's accused of doing, he's a patriot and should get a medal," Meola told the newspaper. "I think the war criminals should be the ones prosecuted, not the whistle-blowers."
Manning -- accused of leaking a video that depicted an Army helicopter attack that left 11 people dead in Baghdad and widely suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands of secret cables to WikiLeaks -- is currently being held in a Virginia military brig.
And that's where he belongs, say members of a national veterans group, who call the Berkeley resolution "appalling."
Ryan Gallucci, a spokesman for AMVETS, which represents roughly 180,000 U.S. veterans, said the City Council "would be wise" to vote down the resolution in support of Manning. A city commission has already approved the measure, and the Berkeley City Council will vote on it on Tuesday.
"AMVETS believes it would be appalling to commend someone like Bradley Manning, who has betrayed his country and disgraced the uniform," Gallucci wrote in a statement to FoxNews.com. "Manning not only compromised American interests across the globe, but he has blood on his hands for our Afghan allies sought out by the Taliban from the first leak."
Gallucci said Berkeley lawmakers should be "ashamed" that the proposal ever surfaced.
Manning, who has not commented publicly on his case, faces up to 52 years in prison if convicted of leaking the video. Though widely suspected, he has not been charged in connection with the release of hundreds of thousands of classified military documents to WikiLeaks, many of which have been released in the last couple of weeks.
His civilian attorney, David Coombs, did not return a call seeking comment. Army officials also did not immediately comment when reached by FoxNews.com.
But Jeff Paterson, an organizer for the Bradley Manning Support Network, said he's "hopeful" the Berkeley resolution will pass.
"I believe he's a hero," Paterson said. "There's an international witch hunt against WikiLeaks and if Bradley Manning is the source of the material, he needs all of our support."
Paterson, who will attend Tuesday's vote along with Meola, says he considers the resolution's chances of passing to be "50-50."
James Carafano, national security expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, said he considered the resolution to be jumping the gun.
"First of all, someone is innocent until proven guilty," Carafano said. "And the investigation is not done. They're kind of pre-judging the judicial system -- at least wait and see what evidence and charges are presented. They have no evidence to base this judgment on."
If Manning is ultimately charged and proven guilty of leaking the sensitive documents, Carafano said, the resolution could be construed as encouraging millions of U.S. military officials with access to sensitive information to disseminate that material.
"I'm a great lover of democracy and I'm a great lover of federalism," he said. "But if people of that city want to earn the disdain of other Americans, that's their right. If these people want to vote against the crowd, have at it.
"The most kind and generous thing you could say is that it's completely irresponsible."