- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — The Berkeley City Council has indefinitely delayed a vote on whether to bestow hero status on a soldier who purportedly released classified information to WikiLeaks.

Some council members in this famously liberal city said Tuesday night they were concerned about the way the resolution was written and wanted more time to investigate. Others said it was premature to hail Pfc. Bradley Manning a hero when he has not admitted to being the source of the leaks.

“My problem with the recommendation as it stands is we’re being asked to proclaim somebody a hero who hasn’t said he wants to be recognized as a hero, who hasn’t said that he did it,” said Councilman Kriss Worthington, who added that he did consider a hero whoever was responsible for the leaks.

“I think this should come back to us if he actually says that he did it.”

Pfc. Manning has gained support from groups on the anti-war left who believe the soldier performed a valuable public service. Some politicians and veterans’ groups have labeled the soldier’s purported release of classified information an act of treason.

Other councilmembers were less enthusiastic about the leaks themselves, and that the council was spending its time debating Wikileaks instead of dealing with local issues.

“Items like this are a huge distraction from what I feel like I was elected to do,” said Councilwoman Susan Wengraf.

The proposed resolution is the latest in a long line of provocative political statements by leaders in Berkeley, a city of 100,000 across the bay from San Francisco that was the epicenter of the anti-war movement in the Vietnam era.

The city put a measure on the 2006 ballot calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and more recently tried to declare Marine recruiters “unwanted intruders.”

The resolution proposed by the city’s Peace and Justice Commission praises Pfc. Manning for exposing “war crimes” by purportedly leaking a 2007 video of a laughing U.S. Apache helicopter crew gunning down 11 men in Baghdad, Iraq, including a Reuters news photographer.

“The United States Army covered up the evidence and declared this war crime ‘justified’ and now claims that exposing the massacre is criminal,” the resolution reads. “Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime.”

Military investigators also suspect the 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst downloaded hundreds of thousands of classified Afghan and Iraq war reports and an untold number of secret U.S. diplomatic cables onto a Lady Gaga CD and a computer memory stick while stationed in Iraq. Wikileaks published the war reports earlier this year and began releasing the cables late last month.

Pfc. Manning has not commented publicly on whether he is the source of the leaks. But anti-war groups have rallied behind him and are raising money for his defense.

“We obviously think Manning’s a hero,” said Jeff Manning, a project manager for Courage to Resist, the group that authored the resolution as part of its mission of supporting anti-war members of the U.S. armed services. “If he’s going to have a shot at justice in a military courtroom we have to move more people to think the same way.”

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has won similar support from anti-war groups, including documentary maker Michael Moore, as he appeared before a British judge Tuesday in hopes of getting released on bail on a sex-crimes warrant.

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