Bradley Manning Trial: "Aiding the Enemy" Charge Is a Travesty


After nearly three years of cruel and inhumane treatment and denial of basic civil liberties at the hands of the U.S. government, former Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Bradley Manning is currently facing a court-martial at Fort Meade in Maryland. Despite defense attorney David Coombs's filing of several motions repudiating the prosecution's claims against Manning, Judge Col. Denise Lind's refusal to drop the "aiding the enemy" charge is a severe indictment of American justice.

The government's charge that Manning "aided and abetting the enemy," which carries a possible life-sentence in prison, is based on the argument that the information Manning leaked was of interest to Osama bin Laden and other terrorist organizations.

But as Glenn Greenwald points out in a recent Guardian column, the prosecution's theory poses a serious threat to the freedom of the press and turns virtually all leaks and whisteblowing into a form of treason. Since bin Laden claimed to have read and recommended Bob Woodward's journalism, should Woodward also be locked in solitary confinement and stripped of his clothing?

Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International also excoriated Judge Lind's acquiescence to government power, claiming, "The charge of 'aiding the enemy' is ludicrous. What's surprising is that the prosecutors in this case, who have a duty to act in the interest of justice, have pushed a theory that making information available on the internet – whether through Wikileaks, in a personal blog posting, or on the website of The New York Times – can amount to 'aiding the enemy.'"

In an interview with RT, Jeff Patterson of Courage to Resist, who has actually been inside the courtroom of Manning's military trial, dismissed claims that Manning committed treason. "To underscore, this is the first time in U.S. military history that a soldier is facing the aiding the enemy charge for giving information to the media for the public good."

The arguments made by Judge Lind even go against the admissions of her previous bosses. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Manning's leaks had not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources or methods. McClatchy also reported that officials were overstating the supposed danger posed by Manning.

If even some of the most high-level officials at the Pentagon admit that Manning's leak did not threaten national security, who exactly is the "enemy" Judge Lind is accusing Manning of "aiding and abetting?" Fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden, in a statement from Russia earlier this month, summed it up perfectly. "In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be."

It's hard not to agree with Snowden. While those of us that have voiced concern over the exponential growth of state power have been dismissed as paranoid, "black helicopter" types, the U.S. government has used the War on Terror as an excuse to spy on every single American, loot this and future generations of our wealth, and claim the right to indefinitely detain us without trial.

This is precisely why Judge Lind is throwing everything she can at Manning. The warfare state can only thrive on a scared, uninformed public. 

Those who, contrary to this writer, do not see Manning as a hero since he "broke the law" have to at least apply that same standard to those prosecuting him. For example, back in 2011, President Obama, while commenting on Manning, said, "We are a nation of laws.  We don't let individuals make decisions about how the law operates. He [Bradley Manning] broke the law!" 

Fair enough. The Constitution he swore to uphold clearly states that "no person ... shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." What about when Obama ordered the extrajudicial drone murder of an American teenager? That sure sounds like an "individual decision" about how the law should operate.

The Justice Department told a federal court this week that both NSA spying and the legality of drone assassinations cannot be challenged. A former FISA judge recently admitted that the FISA court is secret, lawless, and flawed. The Executive Branch even hides evidence from judges who are deciding cases and submits "secret evidence" beneficial to the state.

Due process? Rule of law? Justice? If Manning deserves life in prison, then so do President Obama and every other architect behind the national security state.

As Manning's brave defense team continues to poke through the many holes in the prosecution's arguments, Manning's fate unfortunately rests in the hands of Judge Lind. The least we can do, while Manning stoically takes the arrows from a national-security state that views the rest of us as subjects and tax-fodder, is to become as informed and outraged as possible in our demand for the constitutional government Manning hoped his leaks would inspire.