Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning

If you want to know what it must be like to be trapped in a legal system which shows no sign of wanting you to have a fair trial, and every sign of being determined to punish you for your offensiveness to the state, you might look at the case of Pussy Riot in Russia, a group of young female musicians locked up in the harshest possible conditions for daring to sing a song for two minutes.

Or you could imagine you were a young American soldier, horrified by what you were reading in secret transcripts, who wanted his country to return to the principles on which it was founded, and who decided to leak the contents of those transcripts so the world could see what was happening, and make a judgement.

Not the great and good of the world, but people just like you and me.

Indeed, one has to ask, if Bradley Manning is charged with “aiding the enemy” for sharing government lies and secrets with us, then are we the enemy?

At every turn the United States Government, presumably with the full cognisance and approval of the so-called Democratic president, Barack Obama, has treated Bradley Manning with mental cruelty beyond belief – including for a time keeping him locked in a small windowless solitary confinement cell for no good reason – which led to a paltry reduction in any future terms of imprisonment – and has steadfastly refused to allow him to make the defence he wishes to make.

Just so that is clear, in some Kafkaesque world of their own making, the military and civil authorities in the USA are telling this man how to, and how not to, defend himself against the charges laid against him.

Bradley Manning served his country. Now his country wants to lock him up and throw away the key - or worse.

Bradley Manning served his country. Now his country wants to lock him up and throw away the key – or worse.

Now the military judge in his case has ruled that Manning will not be allowed to present evidence about his motives for the leak – a key plank of his defence. Colonel Denise Lind ruled that general issues of motive were not relevant to the trial stage of the court martial.

This must be the first time in legal history that motive could not be considered germane to the question of guilt.

By denying Manning the chance to make a whistleblower defence in his upcoming court martial in which he faces possible
life in military custody with no chance of parole his situation will be rendered much weaker. Manning’s lead defence
lawyer, David Coombs, had argued that his motive was key to proving that he had no intention to harm US interests
or to pass information to the enemy.

It should also be noted that neither the US government (nor anyone else) has ever claimed that the information released by
Manning has caused any harm to a single individual, such as soldier, spy, or government official.

Unsurprisingly, given the way this is going, the judge also blocked the defence from presenting evidence designed to
show that WikiLeaks caused little or no damage to US national security. Coombs has devoted considerable time and
energy trying to extract from US government agencies their official assessments of the impact of WikiLeaks around the
world, only to find that he is now prevented from using any of the information he has obtained.

The general issue of motive must be held back until Manning either entered a plea or was found guilty, at which
point it could be used in mitigation to lessen the sentence. The ruling is a blow to the defence as it will make it harder
for the soldier’s legal team to argue he was acting as a principled whistleblower and not as someone who knowingly
damaged US interests at a time of war.

“This is another effort to attack the whistleblower defence,” said Nathan Fuller, a spokesman for the Bradley Manning
Support Network, after the hearing.

The 25-year-old intelligence analyst faces 22 charges relating to the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified
diplomatic cables, war logs from the Afghan and Iraq wars, and videos of US military actions. The most serious
charge, “aiding the enemy”, which carries the life sentence, accuses him of arranging for state secrets to be published
via WikiLeaks on the internet knowing that al-Qaida would have access to it.

The US government is expected at trial to present evidence that allegedly shows that Osama bin Laden personally
requested to see some of the WikiLeaks publications attributed to Manning and that documents were found on his
computer following the US navy Seals raid that killed him.

In a limited victory for the defence, Coombs and the defence team will be allowed to talk about the soldier’s motives
on two narrow counts: where it can be used to show that he did not know that his leaks would be seen by al-Qaida;
and as evidence that he consciously selected certain documents or types of documents in order to ensure they
would not harm the US or benefit any foreign nation.

Lind’s ruling means that some of the most impassioned statements by Manning about why he embarked on the
massive transfer of information to WikiLeaks will now not be heard at trial. In the course of a now famous web chat
he had with the hacker-turned-informer Adrian Lamo, Manning wrote : “information should be free / it belongs in
the public domain / because another state would just take advantage of the information … try and get some edge /
if its out in the open … it should be a public good.”

Public pressure is the key to determining whether this man gets anything remotely resembling a fair trial. Many,
including this writer, consider him a hero for wanting the public to know what was being done and said in their
name, including when their Governments were openly lying to them.

You can read more about the case, and get involved in the fight for justice for Bradley Manning, as many of
your fellow concerned citizens such as veterans, journalists, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and legal experts
worldwide already have, at

Facebookers will also find this page interesting and
you can also visit a remarkable outpouring of popular outrage and at your own photograph at

Expect to hear much more from Wellthisiswhatithink on this vital public interest case as the trial continues …

Are you?

Are you?

  1. What Bradley Manning did was 100% wrong. And in twenty years he will be considered by many, if not most, to be a heroic (if misguided) figure. Because it will be seen that he did no harm and that he did live up to (in his own way) what his country is supposed to be about.

    That’s the odd dichotomy about it. Someone can be wrong and right at the same time. But it often has to be that way to affect change.


    • I’d be interested to know why you think what he did was wrong, Jon? If he genuinely believed that a crime was being perpetrated against the interests of the public by this obsessive secrecy, then was he not morally obliged to do as he did? Do we not all, in fact, have a moral responsibility to speak up when, for example, we see evidence of a crime being committed? Are not “whistleblowers” a crucial component of democracy. I am really interested to know more about what you think.


  2. James Mahoney says:

    As every serving US military person and veteran knows:

    –Bradley Manning is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ),

    –Upon enlistment, he voluntarily took an oath, among other things, to obey legal orders according to the UCMJ, and

    –He accepted the additional obligations that come with a security clearance.

    Manning broke the law(s) and is being held accountable for his actions according to the UCMJ. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he considered it his moral duty to do what he did brings to mind something that Martin Luther King, Jr., said in his letter from a Birmingham jail. I’ve added a qualifier in brackets:

    “One who breaks [what he believes to be] an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality, expressing the highest respect for the law.”

    In a nutshell, accepting responsibility for your actions and their consequences is inextricably linked to following your conscience and moral compass.


  3. James Mahoney says:

    Others think he is a traitor and must be punished. That’s why we strive to be “a nation of laws and not of men.” Not always successfully, but better than the alternative.


    • Laws are made by men, they are implemented by men, they are interpreted by men, they are applied (or not) by men. The law is never above democratic will, it is an expression of democratic will. We need whistleblowers – we needed Bradley Manning.


      • James Mahoney says:

        “The law is never above democratic will, it is an expression of democratic will.”

        A noble sentiment, to be sure. Under which clear circumstances can one expect to disregard the law with impunity? Or are those circumstances like the famous definition of pornography—“I know it when I see it”—and just as indefensible?

        If laws are an expression of democratic will (only, of course, in those societies that are democratic in at least principle), then they have been established to secure the kind of society that that will values. And if the democratic will is expressed in its laws, and by association, its judicial processes, then citizens either abide by them or work to change them. Absolution by acclaim of a vocal minority, or even a simple or not-so-simple majority, undermines the very democratic principles that the society rests on—the rules is the rules unless we say otherwise when it suits some of us.

        You’ll get no argument from me about whistleblowers. They are protected by laws in this country, but like the rest of us, they are also expected to abide by the law. And like the rest of us, if they don’t, they are held responsible for their actions, presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and given due process.


        • And the point of my original post is the Bradley Manning is being denied due process. He is unable to present evidence as to either his motive or the effect of his actions, which biases the kangaroo court action against him even further.

          Manning exposed evidence of state murder. Cold blooded, deliberate. As well as numerous examples of lying. So my question to you is, are you pleased you now know what governments do, or not? Are you glad he facilitated you knowing more about what is done in your name, or are you happy for your rulers to engage in any illegal action they wish? Which if so would seem to be a strange position for a respecter of “law” to hold …


  4. jvdix says:

    Well, there is a reason the oath of enlistment specifies that “lawful” orders are to be obeyed. It is because some orders are not lawful. Perhaps it is the orders which ought to be on trial.


    • The problem with the laws is they lag behind the dreadful venality of what is done in our name. We need a new standard, in life in general, where the norm is anyone can know what we’re doing, unless there’s a damn good reason to keep it secret, not the other way round.


  5. James Mahoney says:

    Where we differ is whether he is or is not being given due process under the rules and procedures of the military jurisdiction to which he is subject (voluntarily subject, as previously mentioned).

    According to the reports, he will be able to present evidence as to his motive and/or the effect of his actions at a later time in the proceedings, presumably to mitigate a sentence if he is found guilty of the transgressions he stands accused of. I am not familiar enough with the UCMJ and military justice system to know whether this is standard procedure, but in a case of this visibility, I have to assume that the judge and prosecutor are scrupulously following the law.

    As far as casting it as a kangaroo court, I guess it’s a typical reaction of all of us to throw that epithet when we don’t understand the relevant legal environment or don’t like the way things are going. I do know this: the pitchforks and torches will not set aside the law and give him a free pass, but they will make sure that the trial and any additional legal recourse will proceed transparently and according to the law.


    • Where we differ is I believe this man was in a unique position to realize that the weakness (or deliberate calumny) in the Government’s assumption of secrecy was systematic – a cancer at the heart of civil society – and he took the only action he could to combat it effectively. Which he did, very effectively. A better society would praise him and build statues to him. But Western democracy is sick to its core, which is why he is being persecuted instead.

      You point about the pitchforks and torches is well made. At the very least we can hope that his case is transparent, if not fair.


  6. Netacari says:

    I believe the ordinary military code does indeed require those under oath to follow the orders given to them. But it also explicitly states that these orders are to be disregarded – and indeed there is a penalty if they are not – when these orders trangress the constitution or basic moral standards.


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