The American Bear


Bradley Manning’s Profoundly Moving Statement on ‘Paying the Price to Live in a Free Society’

Following the announcement of Bradley Manning’s sentence of 35 years in military prison, Manning’s civilian defense attorney read a statement from Manning, which will be included in a filing requesting a pardon from President Barack Obama.

Coombs also described what Manning was like after the sentence was announced. He recounted how he and his other defense attorneys had been crying. Manning looked at him and said, “It’s okay. It’s alright. I know you did your best. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to get through this.”

Manning’s remarks to Coombs are but another indication of the resolve and strong character Manning has as a human being.The statement by Pfc. Bradley Manning appears below:

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of the concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We have been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on a traditional battlefield. Due to this fact, we’ve had to alter our methods of combatting the risk posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend our country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time that I realized that in our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we had forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically-based dissension, it is usually an American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism and the Japanese-American internment camps—to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, there is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.

I understand that my actions violated the law. I regret that my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and my sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my request knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

Bradley Manning Sentenced by Military Judge to 35 Years in Prison | Kevin Gosztola

A military judge at Fort Meade in Maryland sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison.

Guards quickly escorted Manning out of the courtroom as supporters in the gallery shouted, “We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley,” and also told him he was a hero.

Manning was convicted on July 30th of twenty offenses, including multiple violations of the Espionage Act and embezzlement of government property offenses. He was also convicted of “wrongfully and wantonly causing publication of intelligence belonging to the United States on the Internet knowing the intelligence” that would be “accessible to the enemy to the prejudice of the good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”

“At the time of the charged offense,” Judge Army Col. Denise Lind found, “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were enemies of the United States. Pfc. Manning knew that al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States.” His conduct was “of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others.”

With regard to the Espionage Act offenses, she found, “The more than one classified memorandum produced by a United States government intelligence agency was closely held by the United States government. PFC. Manning had reason to believe the information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”

Manning has been in confinement for 1,294 days, including 112 days sentencing credit which he was granted when the judge found that he had been subjected to unlawful pretrial punishment during his nine months of confinement at the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico. This time will serve as credit and reduce his sentence to just over thirty-one and a half years.

Manning is unlikely to serve his entire sentence in prison. He will immediately be able to petition for clemency from the court martial Convening Authority Major General Jeffrey Buchanan. A clemency and parole board in the Army can look at his case after a year. After that initial review, he can then ask the board to assess his sentence on a yearly basis for clemency purposes.

Manning has to serve a third of his sentence before he can be eligible for parole. Appeals application to the Army Criminal Court of Appeals will automatically be entered after the sentence is issued. If Manning or his lawyers do find issues to press, they can take the case to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces and then possibly the US Supreme Court.

There is “good behavior” credit, which can be as much as ten days for each month of his confinement.

The government in its sentencing closing argument on August 19 argued, “There is value in deterrence, Your Honor. This court must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information. National security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously. Punish Pfc. Manning’s actions, Your Honor.”

The judge was asked to sentence Manning to sixty years in prison. The government also requested he be forced to forfeit all pay allowances, pay the United States a fine of $100,000, be reduced to the rank of Private E1 and be dishonorably discharged.

“He’s been convicted of serious crimes,” military prosecutor, Cpt. Joe Morrow, declared. He “betrayed the United States and for that betrayal he deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in confinement.”

The defense did not make an exact recommendation to the judge on how long they believed Manning should be sentenced, but generally recommended the judge issue a sentence that would allow Manning to “have a life” after his time in military prison at Fort Leavenworth.

“This is a young man who is capable of being redeemed. We should not throw this man out for 60 years. We should not rob him of his youth,” Manning civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, declared.

Coombs also argued, “The appropriate sentence in this case would be a sentence that takes into account all facts and circumstances that you’re aware of, that it gives Pfc. Manning an opportunity to be restored to a productive place in society.”

An appropriate sentence would also give him “the opportunity, perhaps, to live the life he wants in the way that he would like, perhaps find love, maybe get married, maybe have children, to watch his children grow and perhaps have a relationship with his children’s children.”

The sentence is far greater punishment than individuals in the military, who actually committed war crimes by killing innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan, have received. It is also, when considering proportionality, a level of punishment higher than what soldiers or officers involved in torture in the past decade have received.

Supporters of Bradley Manning, led by the Bradley Manning Support Network, will now officially begin the next chapter of their effort to free Bradley Manning. This includes pushing for a presidential pardon for Bradley Manning and a college trust fund that would allow Manning to go to college once he was released.

Bradley Manning acted and continues to act on behalf of the sacred value of life, in the name of decency, honor and anything that is good in the world. And it is precisely for this that the United States government has imprisoned him, subjected him to horrifying, brutal conditions, displayed him in the manner of a caged animal to the world in a mock trial, and now threatens to keep him in prison for decades. Are you seriously going to tell me that this is not torture? At a minimum, this is psychological torture of astonishing, sickening refinement: every value has been inverted and turned into its opposite, compassion and a reverence for life have been turned into vicious crimes, while sadistic monsters enjoy ever greater power and public acclaim. I am certain that Manning is aware of this, although I am also certain he exerts tremendous efforts to keep this awareness at bay, and even to suppress it as much as possible. If he did not, it would drive him — it would drive anyone — insane. It is nothing less than a miracle that he has not already become a gibbering, drooling idiot. That particular miracle is a testament to the remarkable strength of this altogether remarkable man. In our time, a time which sneers ironically at the merest suggestion of heroism or greatness of character, I do not expect most people to understand Bradley Manning and what he represents. But if you genuinely wish to see nobility of soul in action, you need look no further than Bradley Manning. And I would suggest that the only proper response is quietly to murmur a fervent, “Thank you.” Arthur Silber, If You Love Martyrs So Much, Then You Be One

Dissent, Disappointment and Draconian Rule: Bradley Manning's Plea and the Fight to Be Human | Chris Floyd

… [The] importance of these ‘whistleblower’ cases has nothing to do with the personalities involved. Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden: it doesn’t matter what kind of people they are, if you think they are ‘heroes’ or ‘bad people,’ if you’d ‘like to have a beer with them’ or would run a mile if you saw them coming. What matters is what they have done; what matters are the fragments of truth they have made available. If the sexual charges against Assange turned out to be true, it would have no bearing whatsoever on the importance of what Wikileaks has accomplished, the fissures it has made in the bristling walls of deceit that our brutal, stupid and venal elites around the world have erected to hide their misdeeds. The same goes for Snowden, Manning, or anyone else whose actions have made similar fissures.

It’s always a great temptation to succumb to the cult of celebrity, of course, to live vicariously through the snippets we happen to read here and there about some famous person, to see them as “heroes” who live out the courage or accomplishments or glamor that we can only dream of, and so on. And that’s fine for a flip-through of People magazine in the check-out line. But this is serious business. The actions of these whistleblowers involve taking on the power of corrupt and murderous state structures that can and will destroy individual lives and entire nations — structures that are wildly out of control and are devouring the very substance of human society. Actions that put a spoke of truth in the wheels of this monstrous machine are of incalculable importance. The ‘character’ of those who put in the spokes is of vastly minor importance.

… I invite any critic of Bradley Manning’s mitigation plea to stand in his shoes for two seconds and show us how ‘tough’ they would be. Manning is facing a lifetime of penal servitude in a system that has already tortured him, battered him, humiliated him, abused him. He is facing the prospect of spending decades — decades — in a system run by people who demonstrably despise him. He will be housed with people — and more importantly, guarded by people — who hate ‘traitors’ and ‘queers’ and ‘weirdos’ and ‘sissies’ with a violent, virulent hatred. This is what he faces: years and years and years of it. What are you facing? If I were Bradley Manning and facing a life like that, I’m sure I’d proclaim my ‘repentance’ too. I’d apologize, I’d weep, I’d throw myself on the mercy of the court, if it meant I had the chance to cut some time from my sentence in hell. Does anyone really believe, even for a moment, that a blazing statement of political principle would have somehow moved the judge – the same judge who has made a relentless series of rulings cramping Manning’s defense at every turn, and ensuring that the trial was a ludicrous, sinister sham which never addressed – and was designed not to address – the substance of Manning’s action and the crimes that he revealed? What good, then, would be an empty effusion whose only purpose would be to make all of us sitting safely behind our keyboards feel all wiggly for a moment or two?

In his statement, Manning didn’t name any names, sell anyone out, implicate anyone else. He tried to mitigate his own further torture — but he didn’t betray anyone. A plea for mercy, an apology — however sincere or feigned — is an entirely different thing from betrayal. I’m sure that at almost any point in his long, torturous captivity, Manning could have turned ‘state’s evidence’ against Julian Assange and cut the sweetest of deals, perhaps even get a pardon or total immunity. He didn’t do that. He took the entire burden on himself, went through the entire ordeal by himself — and now he is standing there, by himself, waiting to feel the full draconian force of military law. No one else is there but him. No one else is at risk but him.

As far as I’m concerned, he can say whatever he has to say in that situation to try to mitigate the horror that is about to descend upon him. If the apologies and regrets and explanations that he is offering the court “disappoint” you, then that’s just too bad. Again I say: go stand in his shoes, face what he’s facing, and see what you’d do. Manning brought these truths to light; he has endured torture and captivity without betraying another living soul. If that’s not ‘heroic’ enough for some people, if he is now to be abandoned because he’s “let us down” — like a pop star who’s put out a bad record after a string of hits — then their “dissent” must be shallow indeed. [read]

Bradley Manning’s potential maximum sentence reduced to 90 years | WSWS

Bradley Manning’s maximum potential sentence was reduced from 136 years to 90 years on Tuesday. Last week, Manning’s defense team moved that certain charges overlapped, causing Manning to be charged with the same crimes multiple times. Colonel Denise Lind, the presiding military judge at Fort Meade, Maryland, ruled in the defense’s favor on this motion.

The granting of these elements of the defense’s motion has been the largest reprieve given to the defense throughout the duration of the entire trial, which has so far swung almost exclusively in the US government’s direction.

In their motion, the defense lawyers argued that the government had taken single acts of “criminality” and split them into several separate violations, creating a longer potential sentence for Manning.

“By dividing this ongoing act into two separate specifications,” the motion read, “the government takes what should be a 10-year offense and makes it a 20-year offense and unfairly increases Pfc Manning’s punitive exposure.”

Judge Lind granted all of the defense requests to merge accounts, except specifications four and six of charge II that relate to stealing and distributing Iraq and Afghan war logs. The merging of offenses is the only glimmer of hope that Manning has seen since the guilty verdict passed upon him last week, when he was charged on 20 counts, including 6 under the 1917 Espionage Act.

Reporters who were present during the ruling complained that they were unable to record details because Judge Lind read too fast. In previous hearings, the Guardian reported that Lind read rulings at a rate of 180 words per minute. In one session, reportedly, even the stenographers struggled to keep up with the readings.

Independent journalist Alexa O’Brien tweeted in response to Tuesday’s ruling, “Judge Lind recitation of her ruling on merging of sentencing charges was ridiculously fast. NO respect for the public and press.”

Kevin Gosztola and Ed Pilkington, two journalists who have been present throughout the trial, were interviewed last Friday concerning the treatment of the press during this trial and the wider implications for journalism in general. (A portion of the interview has been transcribed on Gosztola’s blog at

Speaking about the debate sparked by Manning’s revelations in 2010, Pilkington explained why the talk surrounding it has died down. “The debate has subsided,” Pilkington said. “It’s kind of calmed down, which isn’t surprising three years later. … It points to what’s important…that you need to keep giving the possibility for journalism to do its work: to hold power accountable.”

“This is why I think the Manning trial is particularly significant and why the lack of media coverage nationally in America has been regrettable,” Pilkington continued. “What the Obama administration is definitely trying to do is to make sure there are no future Bradley Mannings. They are trying to use him to cause such a chill over the media that no people will ever do what he did again.

“That is what the Obama administration wants to happen. … Therefore, there’s a real risk of a chill being put on particularly investigative journalism and particularly in the national security area.”

Gosztola focused on the reporting of the major media outlets concerning the Bradley Manning trial and how they assist the government in their goals of misleading the public.

“What you see is that they [the media] feed off the government’s characterization of these people,” he explained. “They repeat what they are being fed; either by the Pentagon or what they’re being told by the spokesperson from the White House, and this is what becomes part of their narrative to their story.”

“This is an area where they clearly don’t want any individuals, especially at the lower levels, to be able to influence what the public understands about national security, what we know specifically about whether a drone program is going, what we know about the surveillance program, what we know about US foreign policy, and how we’re fighting the war on terrorism,” Gosztola said. “They just don’t want the individuals to challenge it.”

Bradley Manning’s mother has also appeared in the news media recently in the form of a letter sent to her son last week. While grappling with the tragedy that she may never see her son again, she still found the strength to provide encouraging words to Manning.

“I know I may never see you again, but I know you will be free one day. I pray it is soon. I love you, Bradley, and I always will,” she said.

The sentencing phase of Manning’s court martial, which began last Wednesday, is expected to last at least two more weeks. The defense is planning to call 20 more witnesses once the prosecution has completed its sentencing testimony.

Aiding the Enemy | Rob Urie

That Bradley Manning has been prosecuted for making official crimes visible as the high-placed officials whose crimes he revealed continue their lawless behavior with impunity recovers from history the claim of the Nazis about to be hanged at Nuremberg that the international ‘law’ under which they were prosecuted was a thin gloss over explicit power relations. The real ‘crime’ Messrs. Manning, Snowden, Assange and others are being prosecuted / persecuted for is impudence, the refusal of the ruled to bow in submission before their rulers. And more to the point, they’ve acted as free citizens, the greatest threat of all to totalizing power. Was the punishment of grave crimes the goal, George W. Bush would most likely have already been hanged and Mr. Obama would be occupying a prison cell awaiting trial for torture, murder and crimes against the Constitution. Not only will Messrs. Bush and Obama and their cohorts not be held to account, they represent an entire class, a ruling class, at present immune from prosecution. And should raising the issue of war crimes read as unduly moralistic in the context of the real politick of nations, it was the unimaginable suffering and slaughter of the twentieth century that led to the creation of international law, not armchair moralizing.

The charge of espionage, of acting on behalf of a ‘foreign’ power to undermine the United States, goes some distance toward illuminating the dynamic at work here—the foreign power in whose interests Bradley Manning, in his own words, was acting is the American people. You need not agree with his actions to accede this point. Mr. Manning reportedly joined the military in earnest to support the interests of the U.S. through military service. What Mr. Manning found, again from his own words, was U.S. officials acting against what he believed to be the interests of the American people. And given the Bush administration’s crimes of launching aggressive war and torture, there is copious evidence outside of the information Mr. Manning provided that crimes had been, and were continuing to be, committed by the U.S. political and military leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan. And as Mr. Bush’s effort to pin his administration’s official policy of torture on low-level functionaries illustrates, those in power have no intention of assuming legal culpability for the crimes they commit.

What the U.S. military asserts in prosecuting Bradley Manning is that it is the revelation of criminal acts that harms U.S. ‘interests,’ and not the crimes themselves. But were the crimes never committed there would have been nothing for Mr. Manning to reveal. And by asserting that their revelation caused harm, the U.S. admits the crimes by themselves caused harm in creating the risk of revelation. More broadly, American crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan are well known outside the U.S. and were widely reported by Al Jazeera and other non-captive (by the U.S.) news sources. And it is well understood outside the U.S. that Mr. Bush’s war of aggression was (is) a war crime under international law. The apparent goal of Mr. Manning’s prosecution then is to divide those ignorant of official crimes, largely confined to Americans who get their ‘news’ from the corporate media, on the side of officialdom against those revealing these crimes. But as no foreign power has been shown to benefit from Bradley Manning’s revelations, and the official crimes revealed were crimes regardless of whether or not they were revealed, it is again apparently the American people considered the foreign power being asserted to benefit from Mr. Manning’s revelations.

Statement by Julian Assange on Verdict in Bradley Manning Court-Martial | The Dissenter

[On Tuesday,] Bradley Manning, a whistleblower, was convicted by a military court at Fort Meade of 19 offences for supplying the press with information, including five counts of ‘espionage’. He now faces a maximum sentence of 136 years.

The ‘aiding the enemy’ charge has fallen away. It was only included, it seems, to make calling journalism ‘espionage’ seem reasonable. It is not.

Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.

This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’.

President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined.

In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.

Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that – or even claim that – a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.

The only ‘victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.

The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.

The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.

Bradley Manning 'aiding the enemy' charge is a threat to journalism | Yochai Benkler

Thursday, Colonel Denise Lind, the judge in the Bradley Manning court martial, refused to dismiss the “aiding the enemy” charge. The decision is preliminary, and the judge could still moderate its effect if she finds Manning not guilty. But even if she ultimately acquits Manning, the decision will cast a long shadow on national security journalists and their sources.

First, this case is about national security journalism, not WikiLeaks. At Monday’s argument in preparation for Thursday’s ruling, the judge asked the prosecution to confirm: does it make any difference if it’s WikiLeaks or any other news organization: New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal? The prosecution answered: “No, it would not. It would not potentially make a difference.”

Second, the decision establishes a chilling precedent: leaking classified documents to the these newspapers can by itself be legally sufficient to constitute the offense of “aiding the enemy”, if the leaker was sophisticated enough about intelligence and how the enemy uses the internet.

Thursday’s decision was preliminary and made under a standard that favors the prosecution’s interpretation of the facts. The judge must still make that ultimate decision on guilt based on all the evidence, including the defense, under the strict “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.

Although the decision is preliminary, it is critical as a matter of law because it accepts the prosecution’s extreme theory as legally sufficient. The prosecution’s case is that by leaking materials to the press, the source of classified materials is “communicating with the enemy” indirectly. The source gives materials to the journalist; the journalist publishes; the enemy reads the publication and, presto, the source is guilty of the offense of “aiding the enemy”. Manning is facing life imprisonment without parole for this offense.

[…] Leak-based journalism is not the be-all-and-end-all of journalism. But ever since the Pentagon Papers, it has been a fraught but critical part of our constitutional checks in national defense. Nothing makes this clearer than the emerging bipartisan coalition of legislators seeking a basic reassessment of NSA surveillance and Fisa oversight following Edward Snowden’s leaks.

National defense is special in both the need for, and dangers of, secrecy. As Justice Stewart wrote in the Pentagon Papers case, the press is particularly important in national defense because it is there that the executive is most powerful, and the other branches weakest and most deferential:

In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry – in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government. For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the basic purpose of the first amendment. For without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people.

Significance of Military Judge’s Decision to Not Acquit Bradley Manning of ‘Aiding the Enemy’ | Kevin Gosztola

… During oral argument on July 15, Manning’s defense attorney, David Coombs, declared the only way this offense makes sense is if there is an “intent requirement.” It has to be there to “avoid the very slippery slope of basically punishing people for getting information out to the press, to basically put, I guess, a hammer down on any whistleblower or anybody who wants to put information out.”

That the charge was not dismissed by the judge and is part of this trial should continue to be the focus of any attention given to proceedings. As the prosecutors are arguing it, a successful conviction would go a long way toward aiding the government in their efforts to control the flow of information and criminalize leaks to the press.

Bradley Manning trial judge refuses to drop 'aiding the enemy' charge |

The judge presiding over the court martial of the WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning has declined to throw out the main charge against him - that he knowingly “aided the enemy” by leaking state secrets that were posted on the internet.

The decision by Colonel Denise Lind, who is sitting as judge and jury over the army private in a courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland, means that Manning continues to face the possibility of life in military custody with no chance of parole. The “aiding the enemy” charge is one of the most severe offences available to military prosecutors, and has lead to the accusation that the Obama administration is attempting to put a chill on whistleblowers that could have far-reaching consequences for investigative journalism.

Colonel Morris Davis, one of the key witnesses called by Manning’s defence team in an attempt to have the “aiding the enemy” charge dropped, said he was “extraordinarily disappointed” by the ruling. Davis was director of the US air force’s judicial system from 2007 to 2008 and said he was normally a defender of military justice.

But he said the fact that military prosecutors were pursuing Manning with such a heavy hand had forced him to think again. He pointed to the contrast between the full-blooded prosecution of the US soldier and the outcome of the court martial that flowed from the 2005 Haditha killings in Iraq.

In that incident, 24 unarmed Iraqis including women and children were killed by US marines. In the ensuing prosecutions, six of the marines involved had their cases dropped, a seventh was found not guilty and the only one to be convicted of a single count avoided any time in jail.

“When you think about these different responses, it suggests to me that the military justice system is not working,” Davis said.

Bradley Manning in final bid to have 'aiding the enemy' charge dismissed

The defence team representing Bradley Manning, the US soldier who leaked reams of state secrets to WikiLeaks, has made one last attempt to persuade the judge presiding over his court martial to dismiss the most serious charge against him: that he “aided the enemy”.

Manning’s civilian lawyer David Coombs said that to convict the army private of such a severe offence would set an “extremely bad precedent”. It would place US society on a “very slippery slope, of basically punishing people for getting information out to the press.”

Addressing the judge in a military court in Fort Meade, Coombs said that “no case has ever been prosecuted under this type of theory: that an individual, by the nature of giving information to a journalistic organisation, would then be subject to” a charge of “aiding the enemy”. Conviction of such an office would bring “a hammer down on any whistleblower or anybody who wants to put information out”.

The lawyer’s comments were recorded by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which is employing court stenographers during the Manning trial as a way of overcoming the high level of official secrecy that surrounds the case.

… In spirited legal argument, Coombs told the court that the prosecution had entirely failed to show that Manning had any “actual knowledge” that transmitting documents to WikiLeaks would be beneficial to al-Qaida. He said that the webchats that the soldier conducted with the former hacker Adrian Lamo prior to his arrest indicated the opposite: “that his intent was to get this information out to spark reform, spark debate”.

Coombs reminded the court that “aiding the enemy” carries the death penalty, and although the prosecution is not pursuing a capital case against Manning, the soldier does face the possibility of life without parole. To find him guilty of such a severe offence, Coombs said, the government would have to meet a high evidential standard by proving that Manning had “actual knowledge” he was giving intelligence to al-Qaida.

But, Coombs said, the government has no such evidence. “The government has nothing, but perhaps an argument that PFC Manning might have been negligent in giving information to WikiLeaks, and that the enemy might have been able to access it. But there has been no evidence offered by the government to show actual knowledge.”

Speaking for the government, Captain Angel Overgaard said sardonically that “it would be nice if we had a videotaped confession” from Manning admitting that he knew he was making the leaked documents available to al-Qaida. “We don’t have that in this case.”

But the prosecutor said that the government had presented the court with “a mountain of circumstantial evidence … that shows that the accused did, in fact, know that by publishing information, leaking information to WikiLeaks, and having it published on the internet, that it was, in fact, going to al-Qaida.”

Colonel Denise Lind, the judge presiding over the case alone in the absence of a jury, repeated a question that has come up in earlier pre-trial hearings. “Does it make any difference if it’s WikiLeaks or any other news organisation – the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal?

Overgaard huddled for a moment with her fellow prosecutors, and then replied: “No, it would not. It would not potentially make a difference.”

… The judge has indicated that she will rule later this week on the defence’s motion to have the “aiding the enemy” charge dismissed.

Government Responsible for Perception WikiLeaks Aided Enemies, Argues Defense in Bradley Manning’s Trial | The Dissenter

Harvard Professor Yochai Benkler, a scholar who wrote a widely cited paper that examined how WikiLeaks fits into what he calls the networked fourth estate, took the stand to testify in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning. The military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, determined he was qualified to testify as an expert on the networked fourth estate and to share his views on the nature of WikiLeaks and how it is a legitimate journalistic organization.

… Benkler delved into the history of WikiLeaks and how media coverage began to shift and alter the public’s perception of the organization. He also was asked if WikiLeaks was connected with any terrorist organizations. He said no.

He was asked if, prior to April 2010, the organization had connections with terrorist groups for the purpose of providing information to terrorist groups. Benkler said no.

Coombs asked Benkler about the ACIC report. He was allowed to give his expert opinion on the report and testify that he found no evidence in the report that enemies used the WikiLeaks website. He only found ”theoretical statements about how the enemy could come and use” it with a particular emphasis on “how the enemy could use it for propaganda to inject false information.”

He called the report “relatively mediocre” (something the judge objected to hearing in the courtroom). Coombs informed the judge the position of the defense was this is not intelligence.

The judge allowed Benkler to testify that the report was based on open source information. “Many of the key judgments were speculative and were not supported by evidence in the document itself. It included as a core statement both in executive summary and body an assertion that WikiLeaks does not engage in any authentication,” which was already known at the time to be “simply mistaken” because the organization was engaged in authentication.

Cpt. Joe Morrow, a military prosecutor for the government, asked Benkler about how he had characterized the government’s reaction to WikiLeaks as “sort of overwrought.” Benkler replied that overwrought was the term that then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had used and he “thought it was a remarkably well-placed assessment.”

Benkler added, when asked, that he had spent a “considerable amount of time reading about” WikiLeaks. These assertions that WikiLeaks editor-in-chief was a high-tech terrorist organization (by Vice President Joseph Biden) or that it was a terrorist organization was “incongruous with everything I had done in my research.”

Asked further questions by Morrow, Benkler continued saying he had cited Gates because it was “important to see even someone within the administration, who had responsibility of the area, could see how implausible the response was.” One “didn’t have to be an outsider.” One could “sit on the inside and see the response was implausible.”

Overall, Benkler’s presence on the witness stand directly addressed the government’s theory that, by giving information to WikiLeaks, Manning gave information to the enemy.” And, as Coombs said, it went to how the government has charged Manning and sought to portray WikiLeaks has an organization that would give information to the enemy and not a journalistic organization.

In fact, Benkler testified on the stand that in the ACIC report it had been recommended that, as a core tactic to undermine WikiLeaks, the government target whether WikiLeaks could be trusted or not as an organization. This was because the government concluded it would be hard to suppress the information that WikiLeaks published.

The government realized it needed to increase the fear or constraints on potential leakers. Part of that, Benkler suggested, was to treat Manning badly while he was in prison to deter future whistleblowers.

Essentially, the idea that WikiLeaks is not a legitimate journalistic organization or never was a legitimate journalistic organization committed to advancing the cause of transparency but rather an anti-American organization that had a website, where the enemy could go to for US government information, is purely government propaganda.

Key witness in Bradley Manning trial: Guantánamo files just 'baseball cards'

A key defence witness at the trial of Bradley Manning has told the court that in his expert opinion as a former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, the assessment files on detainees passed by the young soldier to WikiLeaks would have had no value to enemy groups and would not have harmed US national security.

Colonel Morris Davis, who served as chief prosecutor in the Guantánamo military commissions between 2005 and 2007, told the court that he had compared a sample of the detainee files leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks against public information that was freely available at the time of the disclosure. He said he found considerable overlap and repetition, and even passages in the official detainee assessments that were almost verbatim copies of publicly-available material.

“A lot of the information was repetitive of comparable open-source information that was available in print,” Davis said. “You could read the open-source information and sit down and write a substantial version of what was in the DAB [detainee assessment brief].”

Manning has pleaded guilty to passing more than 750 of the Guantánamo files, or DABs, to WikiLeaks in 2010, a limited admission that carries a maximum sentence of two years in military jail. The files were published in their first instance by the Guardian.

But the US government has persisted in prosecuting the army private for a higher level of offence – in the case of the detainee assessments that he violated the 1917 Espionage Act, an offence carrying 10 years in custody. Manning stands accused of having leaked the documents “with reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the US or to the advantage of any foreign nation”.

In total, Manning has pleaded guilty to lesser offences carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years. The US government is prosecuting him for 22 counts that bear a maximum sentence of 149 years in military custody.

Davis’s testimony was intended by the defence to rebut the allegation that the soldier had wilfully communicated classified information “with reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the US or to the advantage of any foreign nation”. The witness said that he had compared the five leaked Guantánamo assessment files for which Manning has been specifically charged with information released by the government itself, including Pentagon publications from 2006-07 on the combatant status of the detainees.

Davis said he had also checked against information provided in newspaper articles, a docu-drama called The Road to Guantánamo and a book, The Guantánamo Files, that was published three years before the WikiLeaks disclosures. He said he had concluded that “if you watch the movie, read the book and the articles, you would know more about them than if you read the detainee assessment briefs”.

Bradley Manning lawyer calls for 'aiding the enemy' charges to be dropped

Defence lawyers acting for Bradley Manning, the US soldier who fed a trove of state secrets to WikiLeaks, have called for several of the 22 counts against him to be dismissed, including the most serious charge that he “aided the enemy”.

Manning’s lead lawyer, the civilian attorney David Coombs, has filed four motions with the military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, asking the judge to drop several charges because of lack of evidence. In addition to aiding the enemy, the relevant counts include the allegation that Manning stole or purloined US property in the form of unauthorised intelligence drawn from Afghan and Iraq warlogs, Guantánamo detainee files and hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables from embassies around the world.

Coombs has also filed a motion to dismiss the allegation that Manning violated section 1030 of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by “knowingly exceeding authorised access” on a secret military network and transmitting documents to WikiLeaks, “with reason to believe that such information so obtained could be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation”.

Section 1030 carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, while aiding the enemy – a violation under military law – carries a possible life sentence with no chance of parole. Manning has already pleaded guilty to less serious offences carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years, although he has denied that he aided the enemy.

Coombs opened the defence stage of the trial of Manning by playing the court the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack on a group of civilians in Baghdad. The video is one of the most famed releases by WikiLeaks which posted it in April 2010 under the title Collateral Murder.

The defence had intended to screen 20 minutes of the footage focusing on the actual attack in which two Reuters journalists died. But the military prosecutors insisted that the entire 39 minutes of film was played to show the aftermath at the scene.

Coombs also entered into the court record an excerpt of The Good Soldiers by the Washington Post reporter David Finkel. The lawyer said that the excerpt was designed to show that the Apache video had not been “closely held” by the US government – in other words, it was not regarded as so secret as that it must never be made public.

In earlier hearings, Manning has revealed that he was partly motivated to leak the video to WikiLeaks after he noticed that Finkel’s book contained a precise transcript of sections of the audio from the attack helicopter. He said that he realised that the journalist must already have been provided with the raw footage.

Manning’s defence comes after five weeks of intermittent government evidence in a trial that will go down in US history as the highest-level prosecution of a leaker of state documents in at least a generation. Coombs is expected to call about 40 witnesses, potentially taking the trial into August. Among the first 10 defence witnesses, whose names have been made public, are the former chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo detention camp, Colonel Morris Davis. One of the 22 counts against the soldier relate to his leaking of more than 700 files of Guantanamo detainees.

Professor Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor who heads the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, will also be called later in the week. It is expected that his testimony will focus on the role of Wikileaks as a modern digital organisation, the defence hope being to undermine the prosecution claim that Manning intentionally and “wantonly” sought to assist enemy groups, notably al-Qaida, by leaking the material.