In another sign that both Australia and New Zealand are becoming must-visit destinations for international political figures whistleblower and former United States Army soldier Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning is visiting both nations this September.
Bradley Manning in 2010 copied nearly 500,000 United States diplomatic cables onto a CD and passed them onto Wikileaks founded by Australian Julian Assange. The publication of these cables on Wikileaks turned the website into a globally recognised whistleblowing website.
Assange himself while continuing to operate Wikileaks, as a result of the fallout from the release of these cables and accusations of sexual misconduct in Sweden has been granted political asylum from the Ecquadorian Embassy in London since 2012
Manning was considered a traitor in the United States by national security hawks however criticism was also directed at Wikileaks for simply dumping the cables with no blacking out of names and that they largely only contained diplomatic gossip. Nevertheless, the cables gave the public an insight into the inner workings of US foreign policy, war and diplomacy.
Manning was court-martialed after he was reported to the US Army criminal investigators unit by American hacker Adrian Lamo and was held Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia while awaiting trial. In 2013 Manning was found of 19 charges including theft and six counts of espionage. and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Shortly after sentencing Manning’s attorney announced he was now transitioning to female and would be now known as Chelsea Manning. This began a separate legal battle for Chelsea to receive hormone therapy while imprisoned which was eventually granted.
Manning’s sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in his final days in office to seven years. Since her sentence was backdated from the time of her detainment in 2010 she was released on May 17, 2017.
Since her release, Manning has been on the speaking circuit but has remained a divisive figure. She had her visiting fellowship to Harvard University rescinded following protests from academics associated with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Support for Manning’s actions has traversed the left-right political divide as she has recently attended “A Night for Freedom” which was a “gathering of patriots and political dissidents who are bored with mainstream political events” which was hosted by alt-media personalty Mike Cernovich and attended by Gavin McInnes.
Manning’s tour of Australia and New Zealand is being hosted by established l events company Think Inc whose aim since its foundation in 2014 is “creating a community where ideas can be shared, challenged, voiced and became a champion of democratising learning”.
Previous names it has hosted are atheists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Another upcoming event they have is a debate tour between Cornel West and Douglas Murray about race, foreign policy, free speech.
The tour of Manning titled ‘An Evening with Chelsea Manning‘ will be in Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney as part of the Antidone fesitival this September. Tickets are available for Melbourne and Brisbane with the other events on sale at the end of month.
Of course there will be much pressure for Manning to be denied a visa to enter Austalia and New Zealand as she was banned from entering Canada in September 2017 because of her criminal record. It is hoped that in the interests of free speech and open dialogue she is permitted to tell her story to audiences down under and jusify and reflect on the conduct that has defined her 30 year life.