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Even the Associated Press is jumping on board the idea that there's something fishy about Bradley Manning's trial taking place at the same Maryland military base in close proximity to the National Security Agency  "cloak-and-dagger sanctum." As protesters prepare to march on Fort Meade, where Manning will see the inside of a courtroom for the first time on Friday, there a number of reports circulating about how the government will be treating the young soldier not like an American but like a war criminal. The way that this newly published, fairly fearsome AP report about the venue, you would think that the government is up to something:

The military says Fort Meade was chosen for the Manning hearing not because of its secure location but because the garrison's Magistrate Court has the largest military courtroom in the Washington area. It's where you would go to argue your case if military police pulled you over for breaking the 15 to 35 mph speed limit. …

NSA is located on a separate, far-harder-to-enter compound, contiguous with the main base. Entry requires the highest of clearances or the most diligent of escorts, and NSA's own elite detail provides security. The compound is equipped with various electronic means to ward off an attack by hackers.

So Manning's trial is being held near a super top secret spy-crushing nerve center? No. You have to read the AP's report a couple of times to realize that the term "cloak-and-dagger sanctum" in the lede is referring not to Manning's courtroom; it just happens to be nearby.

As we've known for a long time, there are some unsettling details about Manning's detention and fate. It's true: Manning will be tried as a soldier rather than a civilian and could face life behind bars for leaking a quarter million diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. It's also true that Manning was held for 17 months before -- sometimes held in solitary confinement and forced to strip naked -- before being tried. Is it all a plot to scare the rest of us Americans to silence so we'd never even think about becoming a whistleblower? Who knows. As a conspiracy theory it's got nothing on chemtrails, but it does feel pretty sensational.

Nevertheless, Glenn Greenwald says there's some merit in considering what the effects of America's treatment of Manning might mean. In a not-too-conspiracy theorist tone, he writes at The Guardian:

The oppressive treatment of Manning is designed to create a climate of fear, to send a signal to those who in the future discover serious wrongdoing committed in secret by the US: if you're thinking about exposing what you've learned, look at what we did to Manning and think twice. The real crimes exposed by this episode are those committed by the prosecuting parties, not the accused. For what he is alleged to have given the world, Manning deserves gratitude and a medal, not a life in prison.

Gratitude and medal pending, at least Manning will finally get a trial. In a pretty normal courtroom.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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