David Coombs, attorney for Army Private Bradley Manning, read Pvt. Manning’s statement to the press after his sentencing to 35 years in prison. Immediately after the sentence was read, Pvt. Manning turned to Mr. Coombs telling him, “It’s okay. It’s alright. I know you did your best. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to get through this.”
Coombs talks about the government’s use of classified evidence, Manning’s reaction to the sentence and how much of the court record was hidden from the public. “I can’t believe that was actually the sentence he received,” Coombs tells O’Brien. “Anyone who sat through the hearing and heard all the evidence, even in the closed sessions, there is not evidence there where you would think 35 years would be the appropriate sentence. I wonder now if there had actually been damaged or if he had really intended to harm the United States or wanted to obtain personal gain from selling classified information, just what the sentence would have been. Because this was a person who had true intentions. He wanted to help America. He wanted to get people to think about what was going on in Iraq. He didn’t have an evil motive in what he did.”
The sentence was more severe than many observers expected, and is much longer than any punishment given to any previous US government leaker.
The 25-year-old soldier was convicted last month of leaking more than 700,000 classified documents and video. The disclosures amounted to the biggest leak in US military history.
He was found guilty of 20 counts, six of them under the Espionage Act, but was acquitted of the most serious charge of “aiding the enemy”. [..]
The 1,294 days Manning has already spent in military custody, since May 2010, will be deducted from his sentence. The figure includes 112 days that is being taken off the sentence as part of a pre-trial ruling in which Lind compensated Manning for the excessively harsh treatment he endured at the Quantico marine base in Virginia.
He has to serve a minimum of a third of his sentence, meaning he will be eligible for parole in just over eight years, and, at the very earliest, could be released under parole soon as 2021. He can earn 120 days per year off his sentence for good behaviour and job performance.
Manning faced a maximum possible sentence of 90 years, although few legal experts expected he would receive anything near that amount.
We are outraged that a whistleblower and a patriot has been sentenced on a conviction under the Espionage Act. The government has stretched this archaic and discredited law to send an unmistakable warning to potential whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish their information. We can only hope that Manning’s courage will continue to inspire others who witness state crimes to speak up.
There are calls for President Barack Obama to pardon Manning or commute his sentence to time served. Considering Obama had declared Manning guilty before the trial started, there are serious doubts that will happen.
“Well, Doctor, what have we got-a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
~Benjamin Franklin~ 1787
While Bradley Manning awaits sentencing that could bring up to 136 years in prison, the perpetrators of the war crimes that he exposed and those who authorized those crimes remain free, some still have been appointed to high positions in the government. War crimes apologists hail Manning’s conviction but are silent about prosecution of the likes of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzalez, John Brennan, James Comey, and hundreds of others.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spoke with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on this morning’s Democracy Now!
“Bradley Manning is now a martyr,” Assange says. “He didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave to choose to be martyrs, but these young men – allegedly in the case of Bradley Manning and clearly in the case of Edward Snowden – have risked their freedom, risked their lives, for all of us. That makes them heroes.” According to numerous press reports, the conviction of Manning makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will prosecute Assange as a co-conspirator. During the trial, military prosecutors portrayed Assange as an “information anarchist” who encouraged Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.
Today Bradley Manning, a whistleblower, was convicted by a military court at Fort Meade of 19 offences for supplying the press with information, including five counts of ‘espionage’. He now faces a maximum sentence of 136 years.
The ‘aiding the enemy’ charge has fallen away. It was only included, it seems, to make calling journalism ‘espionage’ seem reasonable. It is not.
Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.
This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’.
President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined.
In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.
Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that – or even claim that – a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.
The only ‘victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.
The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.
The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.
The US first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. What part of ‘no’ does Barack Obama fail to comprehend?
Hypocrisy and criminality are rife in the United States government and, in its eyes, the worst criminals are those who expose such evils. Among the many documents Manning released, for example, was the notorious “collateral murder” video, showing U.S. pilots killing a Reuters journalist, his driver and several others. Some have argued that, although unfortunate, the killing was justified in the heat of battle but the U.S. denied any knowledge of how the reporter, Namir Noor-Eldeen, died until the video was released. Reuters had simply asked how such events could be avoided in the future and was stonewalled. It is only thanks to Manning that the world knows exactly what happened.
There are two ways in which any government can seek to control security leaks. The first is by honesty and transparency, by allowing the public to know enough to make democratic decisions about how far is too far. That is the path that the United States, and this president, claims to follow. The second is by threatening draconian consequences to anyone who exposes questionable policies and practices to the light of day. That is the path the United States, and this administration, has chosen with the prosecution of Bradley Manning and others. No amount of sophistry can hide that truth, try as the administration might. The result, for Bradley Manning, is many years in prison. The result for democracy is a slow death.
The highest obligation we, as citizens, have is to protect the Constitution and the laws of this country. This is what two young men, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, have courageously done. They don’t deserve prosecution. They deserve medals and praise.
Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a lawyer to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, returned from attending the opening session of Bradley Manning’s trial at Fort Meade. He joined Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté on Democracy Now for a discussion of the trial, and the government’s claims of “aiding the enemy” in a bid to scare whistleblowers.
It is an outrage that soldiers who killed innocents remain free but the man who exposed them is accused of ‘aiding the enemy’
. . . . (T)he case against him indicates the degree to which the war on terror (a campaign that has been officially retired describing a legal, military and political edifice that remains firmly intact) privileges secrecy over not only transparency but humanity. This is exemplified in one of his leak’s more explosive revelations – a video that soon went viral showing two Reuters employees, among others, being shot dead by a US Apache helicopter in Iraq. They were among a dozen or so people milling around near an area where US troops had been exposed to small arms fire. The soldiers, believing the camera to be a weapon, opened fire, leaving several dead and some wounded.
“Look at those dead bastards,” says one pilot. “Nice,” says the other. When a van comes to pick up the wounded they shoot at that too, wounding two children inside. “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle,” one of the pilots says.
An investigation exonerated the soldiers on the grounds that they couldn’t have known who they were shooting. No disciplinary action was taken. When Reuters tried to get a copy of the video under the Freedom of Information Act, its request was denied. Were it not for Manning it would never have been made public. So the men who killed innocents, thereby stoking legitimate grievances across the globe and fanning the flames of resistance, are free to kill another day and the man who exposed them is behind bars, accused of “aiding the enemy”.
In this world, murder is not the crime; unmasking and distributing evidence of it is. To insist that Manning’s disclosure put his military colleagues in harm’s way is a bit like a cheating husband claiming that his partner reading his diary, not the infidelity, is what is truly imperilling their marriage. Avoiding responsibility for action, one instead blames the information and informant who makes that action known. [..]
But it’s not just about Manning. It’s about a government, obsessed with secrecy, that has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. And it’s about wars in which the resistance to, and exposure of, crimes and abuses has been criminalised while the criminals and abusers go free. If Manning is an enemy of the state then so too is truth.
After three years, the court martial of PFC Bradley Manning, charged with leaking of sensitive information to WikiLeaks, began in Fort Meade in Maryland, yesterday. The proceeding, before a judge, Colonel Denise Lind, could take as long as three months with over 200 scheduled witnesses. IT began with Judge Lind, asking Manning to confirm his decision not to have the case decided by a jury, and if he was satisfied with his defense team, to which, he answered, “Yes, your honor.” Opening statements began with the prosecution’s statement by government lawyer, Captain Joe Morrow.
“This is not a case about a few documents … or about a government official who made a discrete leak,” Morrow said. “It was about dumping hundreds of thousands of classified information into the lap of the enemy. PFC Manning violated the trust of his superiors to gain the notoriety he craved.”
In his opening statement, defense lawyer, David Coombs, gave a starkly different picture of Manning, describing him as a humanist, “young, naive, but good intentioned”.
Coombs referred to a separate set of web chats that Manning had with a transgender woman called Lauren McNamara, who was at the time a man, before the soldier deployed. The chats showed that Manning felt “a huge amount of pressure to do everything he could to help his unit”, Manning said. “He was reading more into politics and philosophy and he indicated he was doing that as he wanted to give the best possible information to his commander and possibly save lives,” Coombs said.
But Manning’s mindset changed dramatically on Christmas Eve, 2009. Manning was ordered to investigate a roadside bomb attack on a passing US military convoy near the base. [..]
“After the 24 December incident he started to struggle. He kept thinking about that family who had pulled over in their car to let the convoy go by,” Coombs said, adding that Manning also had ” a very internal private struggle with his gender”.
The impact of those struggles instilled in Manning a need to “do something to make a difference in this world”, Manning said. “From that moment forward he started selecting information that he believed the public should hear and see, information that would make the world a better place.”
The report itself is actually ambiguous about whether or not our adversaries were using WikiLeaked data. It both presents it as a possibility that we didn’t currently have intelligence on, then presumes it. [..]
If this document is proof Manning should have known (the conflicting statements notwithstanding) that leaking to WikiLeaks would amount to leaking to our adversaries, it’s also proof that DOD knew they had an INFOSEC problem that might lead to leaked information, one they pointedly didn’t address.
But I’m also amused by one of the case studies in the danger of leaked WikiLeaks information: that it might be used to suggest DOD is getting gouged by our contractors working on JIEDDO, our counter-IED program. [..]
To sum up: not only doesn’t this report assert that leaking to WikiLeaks amounts to leaking to our adversaries; on the contrary, the report identifies that possibility as a data gap. But it also provides several pieces of support for the necessity of something like WikiLeaks to report government wrongdoing.
In an interview on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, Firedoglake reporter Kevin Gosztola, who is at Ft. Meade covering the trial, and attorney Chase Madar, author of “The Passion of Bradley Manning,” discussed the start of the court martial and the secrecy that will surround much of the testimony under the guise of “national security.”
To convict Bradley Manning, it will be necessary for the US government to conceal crucial parts of his trial. Key portions of the trial are to be conducted in secrecy: 24 prosecution witnesses will give secret testimony in closed session, permitting the judge to claim that secret evidence justifies her decision. But closed justice is no justice at all.
What cannot be shrouded in secrecy will be hidden through obfuscation. The remote situation of the courtroom, the arbitrary and discretionary restrictions on access for journalists, and the deliberate complexity and scale of the case are all designed to drive fact-hungry reporters into the arms of official military PR men, who mill around the Fort Meade press room like over-eager sales assistants. The management of Bradley Manning’s case will not stop at the limits of the courtroom. It has already been revealed that the Pentagon is closely monitoring press coverage and social media discussions on the case.
This is not justice; never could this be justice. The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity. It is a show of wasteful vengeance; a theatrical warning to people of conscience.
After the screening of Jeremy Scahill’s documentary, “Dirty Wars,” in Washington, DC Friday night, Kevin asked Jeremy for his thoughts on Bradley’s trial.
Why have the US media shied away from covering the source of the WikiLeaks material yet gouged on his information?
US Private Bradley Manning is no longer the alleged source of all those documents to WikiLeaks. According to his own testimony, delivered before a military court on February 28, Manning was the source – nothing alleged about it.
In a pre-trial hearing for the first time, Manning admitted that he broke the law when he released around 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks but these lesser charges did not satisfy the United States government.
Calling more than 100 witnesses – some anonymously and in closed hearings – prosecutors will argue that Manning’s leak put national security and lives at risk by ‘aiding the enemy’.
If convicted, Manning – the traitor, could face life without parole but what of Manning – the whistleblower?
During his hour-long plea, Manning told the court that he first turned to the national press. Before approaching WikiLeaks, Manning says he contacted the New York Times, the Washington Post and Politico – neither of which returned his calls. His testimony raises the question of whether the mainstream press was prepared to host the debate on US interventions and foreign policy that Manning had in mind.
There’s no possible way to fit all of this in one post. I’ll start here and write a series summarizing the trial and what I predict will happen. I’ll start with some background for the trial.
First let me make clear, I’m not a lawyer. I’m just an interested gay person who thinks this trial will affect all our lives. I don’t even live in California. I’m pretty inquisitive and if I say something, I’ve researched it quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean I’m not wrong. I’m not completely confident that I’ll get all the legal aspects right and if anyone wants to comment to correct errors, please feel free.
Two gay couples in California, one male couple and one female couple, attempted to get married in California, but were denied a marriage license since Prop. 8 had passed, limiting marriages in California to one man and one woman. They decided to combine their cases and sue the Governor and the Attorney General, along with a few others in federal court. Kristin Perry is the name on the case, so it is called Perry v. Schwarzenegger.