Bradley Manning found not guilty of aiding enemy, convicted of espionage

Military Judge Denise Lind on July 30 found Army Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of violations of the Espionage Act for his disclosure of classified information to anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks. The judge, however, acquitted Manning of the more serious charge of "aiding the enemy." In 2010 Manning leaked more than 700,000 government documents, diplomatic cables and a controversial classified video of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians and two Reuters journalists. The US Army formally charged Manning in July 2010, but his bench trial did not begin until last month at Fort Meade, Md., nearly three years after his initial arrest. Manning faces 136 months to life in prison. The court is expected to sentence Manning on later this week. Several advocacy groups have decried the verdict, with Wikileaks terming it "extremist," while members of the US government have praised it as evenhanded.

Manning's case has sparked controversy across the globe since his arrest in 2010. This April, the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces rejected a request by the Center for Constitutional Rights to have access to court documents from Manning's case. That month the judge raised the burden of proof such that the government was required to prove Manning "knowingly" aided al-Qaeda. In February, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him. Also in February the judge dismissed a motion that argued for Manning's release based on a lack of a speedy trial. In January, the judge ruled that prosecutors must prove that Manning knew he was aiding the enemy and that the treatment he received while in military custody was illegal and excessive. After his arrest, Manning was held in solitary confinement at the Quantico Marine Base brig for 112 days.

From Jurist, July 30. Used with permission.

See our last posts on WikiLeaks and Bradely Manning.

  1. Bradley Manning: flawed hero
    We know we’re not “supposed” to say this…. but the uncritical glorification of Bradely Manning on the left is almost as problematic as the demonization on the right. We agree that the “espionage” charges are bunk, and the “aiding the enemy” charge even worse bunk. And the 112 days of solitary confinement at Quantico was an atrocity. All of that is rightly denounced by Amnesty International, and as they point out, it is doubly perverse given the complete impunity for torture by US officials in the years since 9-11. However… it must also be said that it was only a very, very slim minority of what Manning turned over to Wikileaks that actually concerned war crimes. And, yes, there quite likely are some good people who were very negatively impacted by his leaks… not US spies or soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, but pro-democracy dissidents and protesters in Belarus. Don’t know what we’re talking about? Not surprising. The silence about this ugly affair from both Manning’s boosters and his critics has been—and remains—disgraceful.

    If Manning had confined himself to just releasing the “Collateral Murder” video and perhaps a few other cables concerning like US atrocities, he would be an unmitigated hero in our book, like Daniel Ellsberg before him. But by dumping the whole unvetted 700,000-document trove on WikiLeaks, he weakened his own case for being a whistle-blower, and became a very flawed hero. And it is hard to believe that he was not played by WikiLeaks for the self-aggrandizing agendas of Julian Assange

    So yes, by all means: Free Bradely Manning! But Nobel Peace Prize? We’re rooting for Malala Yousafzai, thank you.

  2. Bradley Manning: repentant or not?
    US Military Judge Denise Lind on Aug. 21 sentenced Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison He will become elligible for parole in 10 years, and will receive credit for the 1,293 days he has been confined prior to the sentence. This is obviously a blow for prosecutors, who sought a life term. (Jurist)

    The Washington Post reports Manning’s contrite statement at his sentencing hearing:

    I’m sorry I hurt people. I’m sorry that I hurt the United States. I’m apologizing for the unintended consequences of my actions. I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people… I look back at my decisions and wonder, ‘How on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority?’

    Contrast his defiant public statement released after the sentencing, online at Common Dreams:

    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 our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered 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, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few.  I am confident that many of our 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, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States.  It was never my intention 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 a sense of duty to others.

    If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time 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 country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

    Note even the subtle shift from “I’m sorry I hurt people” to “I regret if my actions hurt anyone” (emphasis added)—in other words, from a forthright apology to an equivocal one that borders on a pseudo-apology of the kind beloved of politicians, priests and police.

    Does Manning have anything to apologize for? If anyone was hurt by his revelations, we are far more concerned about the Belarusian dissidents who nobody is talking about than CIA spooks. But in any case, it is sad to see him squirm. 

    We support a pardon for Manning, but these wildly disparate statements confirm our judgement that he is a confused young man who is in way over his head and was shamelessly exploited for the self-aggrandizing agendas of Julian Assange.


  3. Was Manning convicted of “Collateral Murder” leak?
    A rather salient detail has just come to our attention. The “espionage” charge of which Manning was acquitted concerned the leak of video footage of a 2009 deadly airstrike in Farah, Afghanistan. It is unclear if the remaining 20 charges concerned the “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq, as well as the voluminous diplomatic cables. See slightly ambiguous coverage at WPHuffPost, CNN, July 30. There seems to have been some confusion between these two atrocities (see Mother Jones). Can anyone clarify?