Bradley Manning Court Martial Under Way
The court martial of Bradley Manning, the former soldier accused of transmitting a massive number of classified US military and diplomatic documents to the whistleblower website Wikileaks, has begun at Fort Meade, Maryland.
The US government alleges that Private First Class Manning, 25, dumped state secrets “into the lap of the enemy” by giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks in what prosecutors are calling the largest leak of state secrets in the nation’s history.
Manning faces 21 counts, the most serious among them being knowingly giving intelligence to al-Qaeda by passing the classified documents to Wikileaks. The government accuses Manning of “aiding the enemy” by indirectly giving al-Qaeda access to them and will attempt to prove that Osama bin Laden personally ordered an aide to download documents from Wikileaks, including some of the material Manning leaked.
In an hour-long opening statement for the prosecution, Capt. Joe Morrow accused Manning of seeking “notoriety.” The prosecution sought to closely link Manning with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, claiming Manning was directly involved with editing video footage of the crew of a US aircraft firing upon and killing civilians, first responders and children in Baghdad, the so-called ‘collateral murder’ video.
“This is a case about what happens when arrogance meets access to sensitive information,” Morrow declared.
Defense attorney David Coombs followed Morrow with his opening statement. Coombs called Manning “young” and “a little naive, but good-intentioned in that he was selecting information that he thought would make a difference.”
Manning, who has been jailed for more than three years now under conditions described as “cruel, inhuman and degrading” by the United Nations, has already pleaded guilty to 10 lesser criminal charges, explaining that he leaked classified documents to expose the US military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for the lives of innocent men, women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning maintains that he did not know that leaking the documents would harm the US.
Among the material in the documents leaked by Manning are files detailing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as documents proving that 150 innocent men and boys were knowingly imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay.
The leaked files also detail US cover-ups of child rape, torture, the killing of civilians in countries against which the United States has not declared hostilities, the killing of journalists, State Department spying on US allies and the UN, and other offenses.
While the architects and perpetrators of many of the crimes revealed by Manning and Wikileaks have gone unpunished or even protected by the US government under both the Bush and Obama administrations, the government has chosen to aggressively pursue those who blow the whistle on such crimes.
“Hypocrisy lies at the heart of the trial of Bradley Manning,” writes Gary Younge in the Guardian. “It is an outrage that soldiers who killed innocents remain free but the man who exposed them is accused of ‘aiding the enemy.'”
Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize each year since 2011 for exposing “a long history of corruption and war crimes” and for helping “motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements.”
Daniel Ellsberg, a former US military analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, which proved that the Lyndon B. Johnson administration lied to Congress and the American people about US involvement in the Vietnam War, recently called Manning “an extraordinary American who went on record and acted on his awareness that it was wrong for us to be killing foreigners.”
“I think he saved American lives,” Ellsberg said at a Saturday demonstration outside Ft. Meade.
Because military judge Col. Denise Lind previously found that Manning’s pretrial treatment was illegally harsh, she credited 112 days toward whatever prison sentence, if any, he will serve.
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