- 21 July 2012
- Ed Pilkington
- USA and the War on Terror
The aim in seeking to convict Bradley Manning of a crime that carries the death penalty is to deter any future whistlebower from revealing wrongdoing by the US government or the military.
By Ed Pilkington
16 July 2012
Must-watch video: Bradley Manning – Hero or traitor?
THE US GOVERNMENT claims to have proof that Bradley Manning, the WikiLeaks suspect, knowingly passed state secrets to a location where it was bound to be obtained by enemy groups, a military court in Maryland has heard.
Captain Joe Morrow, a member of the five-strong prosecution team assigned to the case, said that the government would show at court martial that Manning had knowingly “aided the enemy” – the most serious of the 22 charges facing the soldier that carries the death penalty. Morrow said the evidence would show that Manning sent the information to a “very definite place” that he knew was used by the enemy.
He did not mention al-Qaida, though the terrorist network has been explicity named by the prosecution in previous hearings.
The insistence by the US government that it can prove Manning had actual knowledge that the WikiLeaks dump would be used by enemy groups was instantly disputed by the lead defence lawyer, David Coombs. He demanded that the government produce the evidence to which it was alluding.
“We haven’t seen any evidence that the government has provided by discovery that supports any knowledge that the information would be obtained by the enemy,” he said.
Manning has been in military jail for more than two years after he was arrested at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad.
He is accused of being the source of the massive trove of secrets passed to WikiLeaks, and in turn published by the Guardian and other international newspapers, including Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and thousands of embassy cables.
The argument that is currently raging between the two legal sides is of supreme significance – both to Manning personally and potentially to many other parties. For Manning, 24, the legal standard that will be set in his case on the charge of “aiding the enemy” could seal his fate.
The Article 104 count carries the death penalty, though the prosecution has indicated that it will not pursue a capital sentence against Manning. That still leaves the possibility, should he be found guilty of the charge, that he will be sentenced to life in military custody with no chance of parole.
Beyond his individual future, the outcome of the debate on “aiding the enemy” has huge potential ramifications for future prosecutions involving the publication of leaks on the internet. As the American Civil Liberties Union recently pointed out, the US government is attempting to hold the soldier accountable for helping al-Qaida even though he allegedly passed information to a third party, in this case WikiLeaks.
If that standard applies, the ACLU warned, it could set a precedent in which “the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over any service member who gives an interview to a reporter, writes a letter to the editor, or posts a blog on the internet. In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its ‘success’ would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals.”
Manning’s defence lawyer, Coombs, made a similar point at the hearing. He invited the military judge, Colonel Denise Lind, to replace WikiLeaks in her mind with the New York Times.
“If I’m a government official and I’m concerned by some aspect of government practice, and I go to the New York Times with information, and the newspaper publishes it, have I now aided the enemy?” Coombs said.