Chelsea Manning

Judge in Bradley Manning Trial Won't Drop "Aiding the Enemy" Charge

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Credit: United States Army

Judge Colonel Denise Lind, who is presiding over the Bradley Manning trial, has declined to dismiss the government's charge that Manning aided the enemy when he leaked classified information to Wikileaks. If found guilty of aiding the enemy Manning could spend the rest of his life in prison.

From The Washington Post:

The judge said that because Manning maintained and possessed intelligence publications, he would have been aware of the use of the Internet by terrorist organizations. She noted that Manning was trained as an all-source intelligence analyst and would have learned in that training that when U.S. forces were conducting operations, critical information must be protected.

Manning's defense argued that Manning never expressed any intent to aid Al Qaeda or any other enemy:

From The Washington Post:

Defense lawyer David Coombs has argued that before he was identified as the leaker, Manning, in a series of online chats, including with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, never articulated any intent to aid al-Qaeda or "any potential enemy that has ever, at any time, been identified by the government." Instead, he said, Manning's motivation was to increase public awareness "in order to spark change and reform."

The government, however, has insisted that Manning is distinct from "an infantryman or a truck driver" and that as an intelligence analyst, he would know that terrorists make extensive use of the Internet.

Earlier this month the government introduced a stipulation of fact relating to an Al Qaeda propaganda video that featured some of the data leaked by Manning. The government also introduced into the court record a letter in which Osama Bin Laden requested information released by Wikileaks which was acquired during the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011.

Watch Reason TV's recent video on the Bradley Manning trial below:

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  1. Manning’s defense argued that Manning never expressed any intent to aid Al Qaeda or any other enemy:

    It doesn’t matter. The government can prove intent by circumstantial evidence. And further the standard for the government to get passed a directed verdict is very low. The government only has to show that there is some evidence which could case a reasonable jury to conclude guilt.

    The fact that Manning was an intel analyst and knew that the enemy would use any information put on the internet is enough for someone to reasonably infer that he intended to aid the enemy. Will they? Who knows. Do they have to? Absolutely not. But they good and that gets the charge before the jury.

    1. Re: John,

      The fact that Manning was an intel analyst and knew that the enemy would use any information put on the internet is enough for someone to reasonably infer that he intended to aid the enemy.

      So if the act of publishing anything the enemy finds useful can be construed as aiding the enemy, people should then refrain from publishing anything, as even a book on field dressing or a spy novel can be found useful by an attentive enemy.

      1. Sure it could. But can doesn’t mean does. It all of course depends on the facts and the judgement of the jury.

        I think the government has a very weak case here, at least with regard to the aiding the enemy charge. But the standard is so low. I don’t blame the judge for not granting the motion. Finding on this motion is not the same as finding the defendant guilty.

        1. Re: John,

          Sure it could. But can doesn’t mean does. It all of course depends on the facts and the judgement of the jury.

          That’s a pretty dangerous condition, John. It is obvious for even the most obtuse of individuals that a book on field dressing is not meant to “help the enemy,” but the mere possibility that people will judge that non-aggressive action according to their biases and beliefs, is something you should ponder more carefully, as anything that looks evil in the eye of the more zealous or the chauvinist may be judged as being evil, whether the act was indeed evil or not.

          Finding on this motion is not the same as finding the defendant guilty.

          No, but it does open the door to seriously consider his actions to mean a tacit aid to an unseen and unknown (and ver likely an non-existent) enemy.

  2. Mens rea is so quaint.

    1. The judge is not saying mens rea doesn’t apply. He is saying the prosecution can prove it without a direct statement by the defendant.

      If I plan and execute your murder, I can be convicted of 1st Degree murder even if they don’t have a witness of me saying “I am going to kill that son of a bitch”. Same thing here.

  3. By this rationale, any leak at all can be classed as aiding the enemy. It’s a great way to shut up whistleblowers. Which is, of course, exactly what the government wants.

    1. No it can’t. Just because you know it could be used by the enemy doesn’t necessarily mean you leaked it for the purpose of aiding the enemy. If you are a whistle blower rather than a spy, you can come right back and say “sure I knew that the enemy would read this but I leaked it because it was criminal activity and would benefit public integrity.

      1. Sure it can.

        Remember what cops will say: “You may beat the rap, but you won’t beat the ride”. By the government’s rationale, accepted by the judge, they can levy a charge of aiding the enemy on any whistleblower. It has the effect of any overcharge — allowing the government to bully the defendant into a plea deal, and scaring off potential whistleblowers who fear they’ll receive the same treatment.

        1. If you leak classified information, you are guilty of a federal crime, just not aiding the enemy. The crime of leaking classified information is not aiding the enemy. It doesn’t require you intend to harm the US, only that you leak it.

          So you are getting a ride and a trial regardless.

      2. But it doesn’t sound like the government’s arguing he had any intent, they’re just saying he should have known better. That sure sounds to me like they’re arguing that putting any information on the internet that they could use would count as “aiding the enemy”.

        1. No, they are arguing that since he knew that the information was going to help the enemy, a reasonable juror could conclude that was what he intended to do.

  4. not sure what to think about this one beyond Manning knew what he was doing, knew that he was violating oaths and orders and all the rest of military life, and did it anyway. Snowden had a good idea what might follow and left; Manning did, too, but chose to stay.

    1. The treatment of Manning was likely part of Snowden’s calculus in his decision to run.

  5. We have seen the enemy and he is us.

  6. Don’t kid yourselves, America; the government sees the civilian population as the enemy.

    1. They certainly do in the Snowden case.

  7. “The government also introduced into the court record a letter in which Osama Bin Laden requested information released by Wikileaks which was acquired during the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011.”

    Ah, a bit of a hint as to why the Lightworker’s admin was doing the endzone dance so hard.

    1. “Your honor, our glorious SEALs found a series of e-mails between Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Zombie Adolf Hitler all saying that Bradley Manning had aided them and provided them comfort. Unfortunately, these e-mails were dumped at sea along with the body, but they totally existed.”

  8. when U.S. forces were conducting operations, critical information must be protected.

    When are they not conducting operations, anymore?

    1. Never. And what critical information was released? Just because it is classified doesn’t mean it is critical or its release will aid the enemy.

      1. With enough never-ending operations, all information becomes critical.

  9. Well, since they consider the American people the enemy, yes, he is aiding the enemy.

  10. I consider government the enemy, so he was aiding the enemy when he signed up.

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