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Government’s Case Against Manning Has Scary Implications

By Kevin Osborne · May 2nd, 2012 · Porkopolis
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 A nagging question at the heart of the case against alleged WikiLeaks informant Bradley Manning is who, exactly, does the U.S. government want to keep from knowing its secrets.

A military judge who is presiding over Manning’s court-martial told prosecutors April 26 that the government bears the burden of proof to show that the young Army private realized he was “aiding the enemy” when he allegedly leaked thousands of confidential documents to WikiLeaks.

Manning, 24, is facing 22 charges including aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy, theft of public property or records and transmitting defense information.

Although the most serious charge — aiding the enemy — carries a possible death penalty, prosecutors have said they won’t seek it. But they are trying to imprison Manning for the rest of his life.

Manning is suspected of leaking more than 251,000 secret diplomatic messages from U.S. embassies worldwide to the activist website. He was held in maximum-security custody, which essentially is solitary confinement, from July 2010 to April 2011 at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Va. (He has now been moved to less restrictive confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.)

While at Quantico, Manning was left alone in a small cell for 23 hours a day, allowed only an hour’s exercise in a small, fenced area. At various times, Manning has been deprived of his clothing and his eyeglasses, allegedly to keep from harming himself.

The harsh conditions of Manning’s imprisonment were designed to break him psychologically and get him to confess to the crimes, his supporters insist. Earlier this year, a United Nations expert on torture issued a report that concluded the U.S. government was culpable of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” toward Manning, and that the confinement might also constitute torture under international law.

Sadly, the report barely made a ripple in American media, although it was covered extensively in other nations. In fact, various groups in Europe have nominated Manning for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The judge in Manning’s case, Col.

Denise Lind, refused to dismiss the charge of aiding the enemy against him, as defense attorneys had sought during the April hearing. But Lind cautioned prosecutors they must prove Manning knew he was actively aiding the enemy when he allegedly leaked the documents; if they don’t, the charge might be dismissed later, she added.

At the same hearing, the judge listened to arguments on the government’s motion to block any discussion during the trial of whether the revelations contained in the leaked documents caused any actual harm to the United States. Lind didn’t rule on the motion.

Manning’s attorneys want access to confidential reports prepared by the Defense and State departments that gauge the fallout of the disclosures. They say the reports will show the leaks didn’t cause any damage, except perhaps to the United States’ reputation.

Here are some of the items revealed in the documents: The United States had information on 15,000 civilian deaths in Iraq after the U.S. invasion that it hadn’t disclosed publicly; U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered diplomats to spy on overseas leaders at the United Nations and elsewhere and try to collect their DNA; Arab leaders urged the U.S. to launch a preemptive attack against Iran to stop its nuclear program; a source alleged China launched a cyber-attack against Google; the Obama administration is waging a secret war using missiles against suspected terrorists in Yemen; and the U.S. suspects Iran has received 19 long-range missiles from North Korea.

So, let’s put the pieces together about the government’s case.

On one hand, prosecutors are alleging Manning gave aid to the enemy. On the other, the arguments they’ve made in trying to block access to the reports assessing damage show there wasn’t any. If that’s accurate, we’re left to wonder what aid, if any, the enemy received.

Here is how writer Kevin Gosztola, who covered the hearing, has described the situation: “Essentially, the government is conceding there is no harm as a way to prevent the defense from viewing government records that likely show there was no harm … it is purely aimed at concealing what the government failed to uncover and prevent them from being exposed for shouting, ‘the sky is falling! The sky is falling!’ hysterically when the releases by WikiLeaks posed absolutely no threat to U.S. national security whatsoever.”

There is little doubt that the principal players already knew the information contained in the leaked documents.

Surely, Iraqi civilians were aware of the mass casualties in their homeland; leaders in Yemen were aware that missiles were falling around them; executives at Google were aware they were being hacked and blocked by the Chinese government.

The only people left in the dark about any of this — at least until WikiLeaks published the material — was the American public. It’s clear our government doesn’t want us to know the actions that it undertakes in our name (and using our money).

A former associate of Manning’s who has since become a government informant has said the Army private told him he leaked the documents because “I want people to see the truth.” The associate added that Manning told him the documents show “almost criminal political back dealings” that explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has accused the government of “overreach” in Manning’s case, and said the charge of aiding the enemy in these circumstances would be unconstitutional.

“The government does not contend that Manning gave any information to Al-Qaeda, or even that he intended that Al-Qaeda receive it,” wrote Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Rather, it claims that Manning ‘indirectly’ aided Al-Qaeda by causing intelligence information to be posted on WikiLeaks’ website, knowing that Al Qaeda has access to the Internet.”

Wizner added, “So, if the government is right that a soldier ‘indirectly’ aids the enemy when he posts information to which the enemy might have access, then the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over any service member who gives an interview to a reporter, writes a letter to the editor, or posts a blog to the Internet.”

That is far scarier than anything in the leaked documents. But that’s what our government wants: to frighten potential whistleblowers into silence.


Porkopolis Tip Line: pork@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

 
05.03.2012 at 02:33 Reply
To Whom It May Concern, In re. "http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-25394-government%E2%80%99s_case_against_manning_has_scary_implications.html"; "Government’s Case Against Manning Has Scary Implications" I have taken the time to review your commentary at the aforementioned URL. As a consequence of such, I feel the need to correct certain misrepresentations of fact, which I am confident are unintentional, that are contained therein. This article states: "On one hand, prosecutors are alleging Manning gave aid to the enemy. On the other, the arguments they’ve made in trying to block access to the reports assessing damage show there wasn’t any. If that’s accurate, we’re left to wonder what aid, if any, the enemy received." At no point has the prosecution relied on any statement, affirmation, or allegation that the leaks failed to cause significant harm to valid governmental interests of the United States. Rather, the prosecution has validly affirmed that the relevant law in this case does not require such a showing, in an objectively valid effort to avoid wasteful and ultimately irrelevant arguments over such a matter. Your article further goes on to state by way of abjectly uncritical quotation: "Here is how writer Kevin Gosztola, who covered the hearing, has described the situation: “Essentially, the government is conceding there is no harm as a way to prevent the defense from viewing government records that likely show there was no harm … it is purely aimed at concealing what the government failed to uncover and prevent them from being exposed for shouting, ‘the sky is falling! The sky is falling!’ hysterically when the releases by WikiLeaks posed absolutely no threat to U.S. national security whatsoever.”" First and foremost, you inherently ignore the fact that a showing of harm is not required for conviction under applicable law. You may as well cite as precedent "Sideshow Bob", of "The Simpsons" fame, when he defended against attempted murder allegations on the aforementioned show by exclaiming "There's no Nobel Prize for *attempted chemistry*, is there?* The two statements are fungible in that, in order to legally secure a conviction, the government has no inherent burden which requires it to demonstrate harm - a factor which is very much dissimilar from an *inability* to demonstrate harm. Indeed, it serves no one's interest save that of adversarial unlawful belligerents if the government is required to lay out a roadmap to the specific individualities of how it has been harmed. I do, however, clearly understand how such a forced showing would serve the defendant. You go on to cite an author who has manifestly, consistently, and clearly demonstrated sympathy for the defendant irrespective of the selfsame defendant's ultimate guilt in this matter, rushing to rationalize said author's statements as valid and objective without any demonstrated regard in re. said authors predilections towards sympathy - without consideration for fact - towards the instant defendant. As such, I see no need to address the statements of this author until and if he should elect to address the instant facts objectively. Lastly and most importantly, I address the claims of the ACLU in this matter. Although I regard the ACLU as a venerable and worthy institution in the context of involvement in American jurisprudence, in this matter they rush in where cooler heads fear - and validly - to tread. The ACLU claims: “So, if the government is right that a soldier ‘indirectly’ aids the enemy when he posts information to which the enemy might have access, then the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over any service member who gives an interview to a reporter, writes a letter to the editor, or posts a blog to the Internet.” This is, indeed, factually, legally, and validly correct. Wheresoever a soldier provides valuable intelligence in a forum which is obviously and reasonably - to a person of ordinary intelligence - accessible to an adversarial party in a conflict in which the United States is engaged, the person providing such information is in fact reasonably construed as providing said information to the enemy. Were this to be interpreted otherwise, a person of equal character to Robert Hansen could reasonably claim "By no means was I providing this bushel of classified information to the Russians; to the contrary, I was merely providing it to this very American public park in which I deposited it immediately prior to my arrest." Clearly, such a claim by the defendant would be laughed out of court. However, in light of the inevitable novelty of the Internet (in the eyes of many jurists) entities associated with the defendant in the instant matter are, with a straight face that attests positively to their poker skills, alleging the essentially same defense for the instant defendant. The novelty of this medium should not deceive the reader - there is no way that a trained intelligence analyst could be unaware that a diversity of foreign intelligence services, not the least of which include elements of al-Qaida, not only would have access to, but in fact affirmatively monitor the Internet in furtherance of a wide variety of criminal acts. It is with remorse that I further attest to this fact as a culprit in certain cases of cybercrime (almost aa decade ago). Prior to my further understanding of the relationship between online intrusion and real-world harm, I cut a broad swath across online industry in a series of online intrusions to which I plead guilty, because I was in fact guilty, and was mortified by my sudden understanding (as elucidated by evidence) of the harm that I had caused. Although I had no malicious intent, and was in fact lauded by some of my victims as an example of a relatively benign intruder (given assistance which I freely and unconditionally rendered in securing networks), I understood after-the-fact that such actions caused greater harm than I had realized at the time. Along this same vein, I cannot envision any circumstance in which a modern Internet user, much less one trained in military intelligence, could fail to understand that providing classified information unlawfully to the public could fail to terminate in the ultimate acquisition of such information by criminal & terroristic organizations using the same Internet in furtherance of unlawful goals. Indeed, had the alleged culprit broadcast this information on television, could he then claim that no reasonable person could expect the enemy to absorb said information on television? Quite the opposite: Proliferation via the Internet provides indefinite opportunities for consumption which saturate the enemy, vs. the (relatively) lesser opportunities afforded by a one-time television showing. No person of ordinary intelligence can claim that they did not understand that the enemies of free nations, *in addition* to their citizenry, would absorb the aforementioned classified information via the Internet. Lastly, and on a personal note, it is very much clear that I am in fact the "former associate of Manning’s" whom you refer to. Since you have lent my voice to Manning's claims of altruism when it served your purposes, I am confident, if you have no ulterior motive, that you will similarly lend my voice to objective and reasonable attestation that Manning intended his actions to adversely impact the United States of America. After all, there is no reason that an entity objectively reporting the news would fail to report updates from the very same sources they have relied on in the past - is there? Kind Regards, R. Adrian Lamo

 

05.03.2012 at 08:32 Reply

Lamo, you have no credibility.

http://www.salon.com/2010/06/18/wikileaks_3/

 

 
 
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