Bradley Manning: Guilty of Doing the Right Thing

Stephen Lendman

Final arguments were presented last week. Judge Col. Denise Lind adjourned for the weekend. Tuesday 1PM EDT was verdict day and time. It didn't surprise. Earlier she refused to dismiss aiding the enemy charges. She let multiple Espionage Act violations stand. She did so disgracefully.

Manning faces possible life in prison. We'll know once sentence is imposed. We'll know more if it holds on appeal. We know plenty now. Lind threw the book at Manning except entirely. She exonerated him of aiding the enemy. She convicted him of 20 of 22 charges. They include five Espionage Act counts. Expect sentencing to be harsh. Manning faces longterm imprisonment. He may never be free again.

According to Brennan Center for Justice Liberty and National Security Program co-director Elizabeth Goitein:

"Manning is one of very few people ever charged under the Espionage Act (prosecuted) for leaks to the media. The only other person who was convicted after trial was pardoned. Despite the lack of any evidence that he intended any harm to the United States, Manning faces decades in prison. That's a very scary precedent."

Lind is chief judge, 1st Judicial Circuit, US Army Trial Judiciary. She served in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps for 25 years. Her service includes 4 years as a military judge in Europe, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Washington, DC. She's Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University Assistant Professor of National Security Studies. She's chief counsel, US Army Government Appellate Division, general counsel, Fort Belvoir, VA. She's Army Joint Service Committee on Military Justice working group member. She's supervisory defense counsel, senior prosecutor, and special assistant US attorney. She's a New York Bar member.

Ahead of her verdict, the Bradley Manning Support Network said the following:

"In an ominous sign for (judicial fairness), military judge Denise Lind altered important charges last week in order to assist prosecutors ahead of verdict. In so doing, defense attorney David Coombs explained, 'The Government has pushed this case beyond the bounds of legal propriety.' 'If the Government meant information, it should have charged information.' Up until last week, Manning was charged with stealing entire databases. The Defense has no way to defend Manning against these new charges after the fact."

"Army private Bradley Manning faces a potential life sentence for passing hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to the transparency website WikiLeaks, to expose US criminality in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and further abuses around the world. Never in the history of American military law has a person been charged with Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Law, 'Aiding the Enemy,' for providing information to the media in the public interest."

"However, Manning faces life in prison tomorrow if convicted of this charge alone - despite all evidence to the contrary. 'I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information…this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general,' Manning said in a February statement."

A sentencing hearing's scheduled for Wednesday. Expect it unless postponed. It could last weeks. Each side plans calling numerous witnesses.

Obama pronounced Manning guilty by accusation. He did so before trial proceedings began. He acted callously and unconscionably. Media scoundrels piled on. They still do.

See Something - Say Something?

Lead prosecutor Capt. Ashden Fein called Manning an anarchist/hacker/traitor. He "knew exactly what he was doing," he said. His actions represented "general evil intent."

"He was not a whistleblower. He was a traitor, a traitor who understood the value of compromised information in the hands of the enemy and took deliberate steps to ensure that they, along with the world, received it."

In February, Manning pled guilty to 10 lesser charges. They're punishable up to 20 years in prison. Aiding the enemy and other Espionage Act violations could put him away for life.

After sentencing, it's reviewed. It's Major General Jeffrey Buchanan's responsibility. He heads Washington's Military District. He may or may not order leniency. It's unlikely. Expect tokenism at best. Obama wants his head. So do media scoundrels. No military or civil judge will countermand the president and commander-in-chief. None dares challenge court of public opinion sentiment.

If bad conduct discharge is ordered, a dishonorable one, or imprisonment for a year or more (on top of time served), further review is required. It's the Army Court of Criminal Appeals responsibility. It can go higher. The US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces is its highest judicial authority.

Manning can appeal to the Supreme Court. It's nearly always unsympathetic. Petitions for hearings are summarily rejected. A one-sentence comment does so, saying: "Petition for writ of certiorari denied."

On July 24, defense counsel Coombs petitioned for mistrial. He said in part:

"The Defense submits that the Government has made an utter mess of the section 641 offenses by pursuing one charge (that PFC Manning stole databases) and at the last minute pursuing a different charge (that PFC Manning stole information). The Defense did not know that 'database' or 'records' meant 'information' and has suffered irreparable prejudice as a result. Under RCM 915, a military judge may declare a mistrial when 'manifestly necessary in the interest of justice because the circumstances arising during the proceedings which cast substantial doubt upon the fairness of the proceedings.' "

Prosecutorial charges against Manning reflect injustice. He exposed serious war crimes. He's victimized for doing so. Claiming he aided the enemy flies in the face of reality.

According to Duke Law School Professor Scott Silliman:

"Most of the aiding-the-enemy charges historically have had to do with POWs who gave information to the Japanese during World War II, or to Chinese communists during Korea, or during the Vietnam War."

According to visiting University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Frakt:

Convicting Manning on this charge "would essentially create a new way of (doing so) in a very indirect fashion, even an unintended fashion."

Prosecutors cited Union soldier Henry Vanderwater's 1863 court martial. He was convicted of aiding the enemy. He gave an Alexandria, VA newspaper command roster information it published. Coombs said Civil War-era cases involved coded messages. Advertisements disguised them. All modern cases involve military personnel giving aid and comfort to the enemy directly.

Convicting Manning sends a chilling message to whistleblowers. Do the right thing and be criminalized. Do it above and beyond the call and it's longterm or life.

On July 28, the Bradley Manning Support Network discussed altering charges "to assist Gov't ahead of verdict." Coombs calls doing so "push(ing) this case beyond the bounds of legal propriety." Altering charges isn't "semantic," he said.

"Legally, it's substantially different than the original charges, and more to the point, it comes long after the government rested its case, precluding the defense from going back to question witnesses differently."

It's an unprecedented hostile act. No legitimate judge would allow it.

Manning faces kangaroo court justice. Irreparable damage doesn't matter. Nor does rule of law compliance. Manning was pronounced guilty before proceedings began. Defense council's blamed for prosecutorial misconduct. Manning's trial was a travesty of justice. Conviction came on the same day Washington first protected whistleblowers. Congressional members did so unanimously.

On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress declared it

[the] "duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by an officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge."

Crimes then paled by comparison to today's. They continue daily. Congress supports them. It does so by funding illegal wars. It permits torture and other forms of abuse. It's silent about witch-hunt justice. It's in bed with Wall Street, war profiteers, and other corporate crooks. It supports America's worst. It ignores persecution of its best. It's guilty of crimes charged against others. It's the best government money can buy. Whistleblowers are heroes. They're public enemy number one. Doing the right thing risks prison hell. It's the American way.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He has devoted his time and efforts to progressive causes and organizations, all involved in working for a more humane and just world for all people everywhere, but especially for the most needy, disadvantaged and oppressed. His efforts since summer 2005 have included writing on a broad range of vital topics ranging from war and peace; social, economic and political equity for all; and justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world like the long-suffering people of Haiti and the Palestinians. He also co-hosts The Global Research News Hour, gives occasional public talks, and appears frequently on radio and at times television. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. Also visit his blog and listen to The Lendman News Hour on Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening. His new book "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War" can be ordered HERE. He can be reached at



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