Image via Flickr, courtesy Clark Stoeckley, author of The United States vs. PFC Bradley Manning

Courtroom action is adjourned until next Monday, June 10, giving us a chance to pause and take a good look at what this court-martial is really all about: the leaks themselves. Too often, the content of the leaks—thousands of stories of individual lives destroyed or damaged by war—gets subsumed in the drama surrounding the leaks—Manning, Assange, Wikileaks and their travails. Michael Arria at Vice Motherboard has an excellent analysis of this tendency to overlook the leaks’ content, including a good brisk run-down of some of the major leaks, lest we forget.

In Slate, Ryan Gallagher efficiently lists ten significant revelations in Slate while Alex Kane in Mondoweiss focuses on what Manning’s documents have taught us about Washington’s relations with Israel and Palestine. The Nation has run excellent analyses of the leaks about US policy towards Haiti—how the State Department, for example, lobbied on behalf of garment-making corporations to keep the minimum wage down in Haiti, poorest country in the Americas. Corporate influence on US foreign policy will not surprise anyone, but it is richly instructive to read primary sources on how, for instance, Big Pharma gets the US State Department to eagerly do its bidding. (Ask yourself: does anyone in your extended family benefit when Washington tries to export our godawful intellectual property regime for meds to other countries? Didn’t think so.)

Many journalists, authors and advocates have made thrilling use of the material Manning declassified. I’m thinking of the splendid new book Useful Enemies by David Keen, all about the counterintuitive dynamics of modern warfare. Or Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett’s controversial (and I think, quite excellent) new book, Going to Tehran, which finds much dreary evidence in the leaks that the Obama administration never made any good faith effort to open diplomatic relations with Iran. And the leaks have fueled the first-rate reporting of Jeremy Scahill, The Nation’s own national security correspondent and author of the new hit Dirty Wars (the film of which opens this weekend in New York):

“It would be impossible to quantify the significance of Wikileaks not just to my or your work but to the world’s understanding of US covert and overt operations. It was the most significant document dump in modern history. It altered history. It was like an earthquake. It was the most real confrontation of American empire certainly since the Pentagon Papers but it may prove to be more significant. The idea that you had a democratisation of classified documents and access to them, you can go in and search any country and figure out what the US relationship is with various political forces or factions. I dug deep into the relationship between the US and Somalian warlords. I found individuals who were on the CIA payroll because of Wikileaks and went and found them and got them on record. I would never have known that these people even existed but for Wikileaks.”

In the course of my researching my book on Pfc Manning, the most moving tribute I heard, bot to the leaks and the young man behind them came from Haitian-American community activist Tony Jean-Thenor, who told me that the leaks are of immense value to everyone in the Haitian diaspora and homeland. “Bradley Manning will be alive for generations and praised for what he did to help, not only Haitians but oppressed people all over the world.”

Reading this leaked material is not a privilege, and it’s more than a right: it is an obligation, the duty of any American with access to an internet signal and a browser. If we ever want a foreign policy that serves the interests of the 99 percent, step one is to put on a pot of coffee or crack open a beer and read up on your Wikileaks!

Do you think Bradley Manning would be better off in civilian court?

Chase Madar is a civil rights attorney in New York and the author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower (Verso). He tweets @ChMadar.