Cyberlaw, Department of Justice, Military / Military Law

Court-Martial Begins for Bradley Manning; He Faces 22 Counts and Life in Prison

Did this young soldier aid the enemy?

Bradley Manning, the American traitor or human rights champion depending on your perspective, was back in court yesterday. His court-martial officially began, and he now faces 22 serious charges that could carry a life sentence, if he is convicted.

The 24-year-old Army intelligence analyst allegedly gave more than 700,000 classified documents to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. Manning deferred his plea, so he and his attorneys have more time to strategize. Both sides are still working to set a date for trial, but is getting close to do-or-die time for the embattled Manning.

Let’s see the newest details about his case…

From Reuters:

In Thursday’s procedure, Manning, 24, was formally charged with 22 counts including aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet and theft of public property. Military prosecutors say Manning downloaded more than 700,000 classified or confidential documents and transferred thousands to WikiLeaks, which promotes leaking government and corporate information.

Manning’s plea deferral allows his defense team time to strategize and see the outcome of several motions to be heard before the trial begins, which could be as late as August.

“It basically leaves their options open,” said a legal expert with the Military District of Washington, the Army command unit for the capital region, who was present at the arraignment. The expert could not be named under rules imposed on media covering the proceedings.

It’s worth noting that aiding the enemy is a capital offense, but the government decided not to try it as such. Sounds like a good PR move to me.

On the other side of the fence, this is how Manning’s attorneys plan to defend him. From the Associated Press:

Manning’s lawyers countered that others had access to Manning’s workplace computers in Iraq. They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier while U.S. armed forces still barred gays from serving openly. The defense also claims Manning’s apparent disregard for security rules during stateside training and his increasingly violent outbursts after deployment were red flags that should have prevented him from having access to classified material. They also contend that the material WikiLeaks published did little or no harm to national security.

I know I tend to lean left on this sort of issue, but I’m honestly not sure what the right call is here. On one hand, I think it’s fair to say that the information Manning allegedly unveiled is important, and the American public should know about it. I don’t know if you can call the helicopter video or any of the other things he allegedly gave to Wikileaks “war crimes.” But it’s significant information about the ways the American military operates abroad. Keeping Manning in custody for most of the last two years, under questionable conditions, is unacceptable. And I tend to agree with the idea that the military should not have ignored his supposedly obvious and worrisome emotional issues.

That said, the military is based on a hierarchy. If members of the military don’t follow the rules based on rank, we would have obvious chaos. Nothing would get done. It’s the same reason I agreed with Stanley A. McChrystal’s forced resignation after he badmouthed Vice President Joe Biden to Rolling Stone. You can’t do that. In a way it is like any other job: you can’t badmouth your boss in public or break the rules of your workplace and not expect to have to pay for it.

In regards to a soldier’s duty/ability/responsibility/whatever to report war crimes, I’m not sure it even matters or applies in this case. If the allegations against Manning are true, it simply means he “reported” the information to a borderline sociopathic albino Australian, who is facing sex crimes charges and has said his goal is to break down the current world order.

I would think soldiers are given the ability to report war crimes so that future atrocities can be avoided, and so such a situation can be fixed. I don’t think the point is to help a chronic pot-stirrer cause more chaos.

I am honestly curious to see how this shakes out in court. To me, it’s a great example of the complexities of our legal system. I know people on both sides have a lot of strong opinions — so please feel free to share yours in the comment section.

WikiLeaks suspect Manning defers plea, court-martial begins [Reuters]

Soldier defers plea in WikiLeaks case [Associated Press]

Soldier Bradley Manning Charged with Aiding Enemy in WikiLeaks Case, May Get Life If Convicted [ABA Journal]

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments