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The Most Disturbing Thing About the Case Against Bradley Manning

No Mercy in Sight for the Iraq War Whistle-Blower

The Most Disturbing Thing About the Case Against Bradley Manning

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BRADLEY MANNING Guards tower over the 
five-foot-two prisoner.

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Except for the annoyingly fit people jogging in synchrony and the National Security Agency complex looming above the tree line, Fort Meade looks like anywhere, USA. After passing through security gates, civilian reporters who show up at the Maryland army base are escorted by military police past a sprawling shopping center and vinyl-sided tract housing of the sort found in most exurban developments.

The army base is currently home to the hearings of Private Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst accused of providing hundreds of thousands of military and state department documents to WikiLeaks, the online activist group dedicated to exposing the secrets of anyone with power. As Manning allegedly wrote in an online chat with the hacker who eventually turned him in: "[I] lip-synched to Lady Gaga's 'Telephone' while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history." (The veracity of the chats has not been proven in court, but most consider them genuine.)

The most famous releases included the video WikiLeaks dubbed "Collateral Murder," which depicted a US helicopter gunship firing indiscriminately into a crowded Baghdad street, leaving 13 dead, including a Reuters journalist. In the chat logs, Manning allegedly said he hoped the leaks "might actually change something." Other leaks included on-the-ground accounts of incidents in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and diplomatic cables from state department officials. None of the leaks were top secret material, and a majority weren't even classified, but the Obama administration and the military have gone after Manning with disturbing ferocity anyway.

Manning was arrested in May 2010 and, before his present incarceration at Fort Meade, he underwent a lengthy stint at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. At Quantico, Manning was subjected to treatment that 250 American legal scholars (including one of President Obama's mentors) described in a protest letter as "cruel and inhumane." Manning was subjected to forced nudity, 24-hour camera surveillance, harassment under the guise of concern for his well-being, and months long solitary confinement, despite model behavior.

Manning's transfer to Fort Meade marked the beginning of a seemingly endless series of pretrial hearings. These are held on an older part of the base, where the housing and administrative buildings are redbrick. Seventy-six reporters from dozens of outlets descended on the base during the first day of hearings in December 2011. By the second day, the number of journalists fell to 41. The numbers have only dwindled as the interminable process has dragged on.

On a muggy morning a month ago, the shriveled pool of reporters consisted of representatives from Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, Courthouse News, and a French wire service, along with me, an independent correspondent representing The Stranger. The driver of the WikiLeaks truck, which rolls around the country covered in garish messages in favor of Manning and WikiLeaks, was there, too, smiling impishly and acting as an unofficial courtroom artist. Also in attendance was Firedoglake blogger Kevin Gosztola, who has stuck with the process throughout and cowritten a book (with the Nation's Greg Mitchell) about Manning's case, Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning.

These few remaining reporters made light of the low attendance. "Still no one from the New York Times," someone snorted derisively. Another reporter noted that there wasn't even a representative from the Guardian, a progressive British paper that has taken a particular interest in the case. Manning's case has struggled to maintain sustained public interest since day one. Even the Obama administration's tacit condoning of Manning's unconstitutional punishments gained little attention until blogger Glenn Greenwald began writing about it. Even then, debate and concern were largely relegated to activist groups and politically inclined journalists. Unlike, say, the crappy economy or health-care reform, issues of civil liberties or foreign policy lack the blatantly obvious implications for the wider population. In that light, it isn't particularly surprising that the pretrial hearings have been reduced, in most media, to a nonstory.

Inside the courtroom, hulking guards idled around the exits. When Manning entered the chambers, a new batch of burly guards materialized throughout the courtroom, establishing a wall of muscle between the gallery and the prisoner. Manning's escorts towered above him, emphasizing the prisoner's slight build (he is five foot two and very slender).

While the pretrial hearings are going by largely unobserved, this series of skirmishes will decide the legal terrain on which the eventual trial will be fought. The defense, led by David Coombs, is attempting to get the 22 charges reduced or rejected, especially the most serious one, Article 104: aiding the enemy. (The enemy Manning aided was Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the military alleges.) While this charge is akin to treason, and could incur the death penalty, the military is not seeking that outcome.

Coombs challenged the aiding the enemy charge and argued that, if it is found that he did unintentionally aid the enemy, such a ruling would set a precedent where future cases involving whistle-blowing or minor leaking could result in the death penalty. "Our society values life more than that: If we take someone's life away, we'll take it for an intentional act," Coombs insisted. While military judge Colonel Denise Lind refused to drop the Article 104 charge, she seemed sympathetic to the concern.

Thus far, the hearings have suggested little hope for Manning and his supporters. All charges still stand. In a particular blow to the defense, Colonel Lind disallowed evidence showing that Manning's alleged leaks were not detrimental to national security. The prosecution insisted that "the crime is complete" as soon as a leak takes place, although the judge retorted that "the crime is complete only if the offense if proven." There are at least three more rounds of pretrial hearings left—another week beginning August 27, then a day in September, and then another week in October. It will be this last round where Coombs will attempt to hold the military responsible for Manning's treatment at Quantico. The defense will move to dismiss all charges because of the undeniably heinous treatment Manning suffered at Quantico, and if that does not work, Coombs will likely motion for Manning's treatment to be used as credit against potential sentencing.

The defense also noted Manning's psychological struggles related to the military's ban on gay and transgender soldiers. Manning was arrested seven months before President Obama signed the legislation that led to the lifting of "don't ask, don't tell." In his alleged chat logs, Manning wrote, "I wouldn't mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn't for the possibility of having pictures of me... plastered all over the world press... as [a] boy." As has been widely reported, a month before his arrest, Manning sent an e-mail to his sergeant major saying that he believed he suffered from gender identity disorder and attached a photo of himself as a woman, and after his arrest, information about female hormone treatments was found among his belongings. But his lawyers have said he wants to be referred to as a man, and the armchair psychoanalyzing that so many have indulged in regarding his gender is ultimately irrelevant.

Whether Manning is guilty or not, whether he should be prosecuted or lauded, whether he is a whistle-blower or an indiscriminate dumper of information, it is clear that Manning's case is an example of a larger trend in American society: The powerless and economically vulnerable are held to punishingly harsh standards, while the rich and powerful get away with a slap on the wrist (if that). Steal $100 of food from the grocery store? You go to jail. Steal $10,000 from your employees through shady employment practices? Worst thing that happens is you might have to pay them back (but probably not). If an antipoverty organization is involved in a scandal, Congress cuts off its funding. But if a big bank indulges in racist lending practices to line the pockets of its executives, it gets a stipulation-free bailout.

This inequality of accountability, as MSNBC host Chris Hayes defines this trend, is one of the most disturbing aspects of Manning's case.

Manning may spend the rest of his life in jail for allegedly leaking low-level information about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the public, but that is information that has caused little, if any, harm to anyone. But the high-ranking officials who lied to get the United States to go to war with Iraq, or who ordered the torture of human beings, or who allowed extrajudicial killings of American citizens—they're not even accused of crimes, let alone charged. Manning gets stripped naked in solitary confinement while the powerful get lucrative book deals.

Bradley Manning's court martial is not likely to be held until February 2013. By that point, he will have been imprisoned without sentencing for more than 1,000 days. recommended

 

Comments (26) RSS

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sikandro 1
Thanks for writing and printing this. It's been really disturbing to me how little I see about Manning in the American press. The point about the inequality of accountability is killer.
Posted by sikandro on August 15, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
2
THANK YOU FOR COVERING THIS. KUDOS TO MR. BLUMGART AND THE STRANGER.
Posted by ans on August 15, 2012 at 6:30 PM · Report this
3
Thank you for covering this story!
Posted by campesino on August 16, 2012 at 10:20 AM · Report this
4
Thank you for printing this!!!
Posted by Sparklingpalm on August 16, 2012 at 10:27 AM · Report this
Pol Pot 5
Thanks for covering one of the most important and under reported stories out there. Private Manning is a true hero.
Posted by Pol Pot http://bottlefuelrag.blogspot.com on August 16, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this
6
Thanks for a great article, this is a really good reminder of what Bradley has been going through.
Posted by Sabra on August 16, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
7
Outstanding article, much thanks.

And how that most peculiar British "justice" regarding the Assange extradition:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/uk-wont-e…

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As prosecutors in Minnesota began preparing to file charges against a man accused of molesting two girls and raping a third in the 1990s, the suspect fled the United States, eventually winding up in London, where authorities caught up to him two years ago.
Posted by sgt_doom on August 16, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Report this
8
Thank you to the Stranger and to the Bradley Manning in each of us. We support you and salute you Bradley.
Posted by georip on August 16, 2012 at 12:41 PM · Report this
9
One of the best articles I have read on the Manning case, and I have read many.
Posted by Ned Trace on August 16, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this
10
This is such an important yet under reported case! Thank you for covering it...
Posted by dbwj on August 17, 2012 at 6:41 AM · Report this
11
Thanks for covering this controversial story with a lucid eye. What's the use of a free press if no-one is willing to look at difficult problems? The point about giving punishingly harsh sentences to the powerless, while the wealthy get a slap on the wrist is a revealing testimony to how our military and justice systems serve the interests of corporate America.
Posted by clawed on August 17, 2012 at 6:57 AM · Report this
12
While Mr. Manning has been going through true hell, it is important to understand how the WikiLeaks portion fits in.

A WikiLeaks Primer

Originally, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange fled Iceland as he was under surveillance by business-suited strangers, plus he was tipped off by the bank where the WikiLeaks’ account was located that they had been approached by US government personnel.

In Sweden, Assange was immediately approached by a Bonnier family publication for exclusive rights in publishing WikiLeaked documents.

Assange declined their offer, both against the principle of exclusivity, and because he’d been advised that the publication was similar to Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloids; not necessarily respectable.

It is important to understand that the Bonnier family is a major European media family (Bonnier AB is one of the 10 largest media companies in the world), who’s ownership extends to American publications such as Sports Illustrated, Popular Science, Time, etc.

The woman who first approached Assange for consensual sex, Anna Ardin, worked for one of the Bonnier family publications, and while her present source of income is difficult to determine, she appears to be surviving nicely. Ardin would later approach the second young lady, Sofia Wilen (who also had consensual sex with Assange), to accompany her to the police.
The law firm which volunteered to represent the two women is comprised of two law partners, Claes Borgstrom, who has two sisters who work for Bonnier family companies, and Thomas Bodstrom, who publishes through the Bonnier family media company (he writes legal fiction).

Bodstrom was also the Swedish Minister of Justice who had OK’ed the CIA’s illegal kidnapping of several Swedish citizens of Arabic origin --- also called extreme rendition --- who were transported to Egypt for torture (and what could have led to murder), but were eventually released and sued the Swedish government in Swedish courts, winning a financial judgment against them.

Sweden claims it would never allow extradition to any country with a legalized death penalty, yet by allowing extreme renditions to such countries, we know this to be a lie.

Originally when the women approached the police, a junior prosecutor on duty ordered Assange to remain in Sweden, but the Swedish Prosecution Authority shortly dropped all charges as they had no merit.

Later, after allowing Assange to leave Sweden, and due to political pressure from the highest levels of government, the Swedish Prosecution Authority resumed the case without merit, seeking Assange’s extradition, solely for questioning, in violation of both existing Swedish law, and the regulations pertaining to issuing European Union arrest warrants (two very important points!).

During those early events in Sweden, Anna Ardin had chat message traffic with reporters for a Bonnier family tabloid, Expressen, which indicated criminal conspiracy and malfeasance on her part, and while her attorney, Claes Borgstrom, illegally directed her to delete this evidence, she forgot to delete the copy from her blog site, later downloaded by an enterprising Australian journalist.

Unfortunately, this has received scant attention or reportage in the corporate media.

Later, the other law partner and former Justice Minister, Thomas Bodstrom, went on a book tour in America, where he routinely spread disinformation about the WikiLeaks/Assange case. Much of the time Bodstrom stayed at a residence in Virginia, a short drive from the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

A curious coincidence, or logistical necessity?

The present Justice Minister, Beatrice Ask, who resurrected the extradition case against Assange, was originally appointed to her cabinet positions by Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister who is presently the Swedish foreign minister.

Carl Bildt appears unfavorably mentioned in several WikiLeaked cables, and was a director at Lundin Petroleum during their involvement in massacres of Sudanese living on oil-rich land in that African country.

Later, in America, a relatively unknown author named Jaclyn Friedman, would attempt to publicize the consensual sex case against Assange as rape charges. Friedman’s web site, at that time, displays her boasting of enjoying sex with multiple male partners in a given week’s time, although at times Ms. Friedman claims to be an avowed lesbian?

Perhaps more troubling is that Ms. Friedman was published through Perseus Books, which at that time was owned by the private equity firm, Perseus LLC, which was also listed as the business address, for tax purposes, for the American Friends of Bilderberg, Inc., whose directors are listed as David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle.

The business contact for that group at Perseus LLC and either the firm’s CEO or a senior executive, was James Johnson, a major character featured in a recent book by NY Times financial reporter, Gretchen Morgenstern, cited as playing a major governmental role in the subprime mortgage meltdown.

A Bonnier family member, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, was and still may be the Swedish ambassador to Israel.

Quite a bunch of improbable connections pertaining to a strange case of consensual sex?

[A recent important article on Bradley Manning’s trial can be found at the site below.]

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-m…

More...
Posted by sgt_doom on August 17, 2012 at 11:26 AM · Report this
13
The privileged and the powerful are never subjected to the harsh reality of military justice because they don't serve in the military. But if Manning didn't know what he was in for he was sadly naive.
Posted by drinkup on August 17, 2012 at 7:50 PM · Report this
Flightning 14
Free Manning! This should not be happening. There would be nothing to be "leaking" if the U.S. hadn't been blowing up places from helicopters in a war in the first place. They are just mad because he was trying to show the truth of war.
Posted by Flightning http://felixmendoza.deviantart.com on August 18, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
15
Manning action was not something done out of heroism, he himself stated his intention was for recognition. He wanted attention because of his personal social problems that he was going through. "Attention whore" if you will. He probably had little to no political opinion on the matter.

The content he released can party be used to pin point wrong doing by the US(mainly refusal to release helicopter footage of Reuters journalist killing.) a cover up. On the other hand, aside from espionage, names of operatives whose life depends on confidentiality of their identity was also released along side those documents, is a clear wrong doing on Manning part.

I wouldn't persecute Manning for his actions though. The guys was mentally troubled and his only intentions was to get some attention. On the other hand Assange knew full well what he was doing and against the advice of everyone around him he publish those names. Even going as far as to say that if anything happen to the people whose lives he put at risk it was his from of punishment. This is a deceleration of war, and the US seeking death penalty is fully justified.
Posted by Eric378 on August 18, 2012 at 12:34 PM · Report this
Puty 16
I'd like to toss in a "thanks for running this," too. It's an important story. Thanks, Strangers!
Posted by Puty on August 20, 2012 at 8:45 AM · Report this
17
The Obama Administration has not injected itself into the Manning case in any way.

The Department of Justice has not been involved in the case and would have absolutely no authority, in any case, to get involved.

As an honor graduate of the U. S. Naval Justice School and a retired senior enlisted man with considerable knowledge of such matters, I offer the following for consideration.

The only time the President of the United States is permitted by our laws to involve himself/herself in the military justice system is after a trial has been conducted and all appeals (including appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States) have been exhausted is in the case of a death sentence which must be approved by him/her prior to such sentence being carried out).

It would be entirely wrong for the President to involve himself/herself in any case prior to that point.

Manning signed his enlistment contract and agreed to subject himself to the rules and regulations prescribed by the Congress (pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) for the governance of the land and naval forces. Those rules and regulations are set forth in the United States Code (the laws enacted by the Congress and signed by the President) in USC, Title 10, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 47 which is known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

The provisions of the UCMJ are implemented by the executive order of the President/Commander-in-Chief known as "The Manual for Courts-Martial" and explained to every member of our armed forces during their basic training/boot camp and again on an annual basis throughout his or her military service.

Manning knew (or should have known) those rules.

The UCMJ Article 32 (grand jury proceedings) were properly conducted and, based on the findings in those proceedings, the determination was made that evidence sufficient to support the bringing of charges and specifications against Manning and referral of the case to trial by court-martial was made.

The case should proceed to trial.

For more than 30 years I lived by the same rules by which Manning agreed to be governed. Throughout that time I had access to sensitive security information and classified matter; and, had I believed an order to have been illegal, I had the right to bring the matter to the attention of my superiors all the way to the top of the chain of command.

I did not have the right to divulge any official information (classified or otherwise) to persons not authorized to access it.

The determination of Manning’s guilt or innocence is not for public opinion to determine but can only properly be decided under the laws prescribed by the Congress.

To ignore the offenses he is alleged to have committed would be tantamount to giving every man and woman who takes the oath to serve, protect and defend the Constitution license to violate the rules.

The military is not an anarchic system and the rules must be applied uniformly to all who serve.

If Manning were to be found guilty—even if the sentence were to extend to imposition of the death penalty which is off the table—he should face the consequences of his actions; and, again, the President should not be involved in any of the proceedings.

Manning, no matter his sexual orientation/gender identity or his agreement or disagreement with the decisions taken as regards the conduct of military actions, should be treated no differently than would be any other member of our land and naval forces.

Albert M. Forget
— a retired, U. S. Navy command master chief petty officer and one who did not support the invasion of Iraq
More...
Posted by alforget on August 20, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
18
The Obama Administration has not injected itself into the Manning case in any way.

The Department of Justice has not been involved in the case and would have absolutely no authority, in any case, to get involved.

As an honor graduate of the U. S. Naval Justice School and a retired senior enlisted man with considerable knowledge of such matters, I offer the following for consideration.

The only time the President of the United States is permitted by our laws to involve himself/herself in the military justice system is after a trial has been conducted and all appeals (including appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States) have been exhausted is in the case of a death sentence which must be approved by him/her prior to such sentence being carried out).

It would be entirely wrong for the President to involve himself/herself in any case prior to that point.

Manning signed his enlistment contract and agreed to subject himself to the rules and regulations prescribed by the Congress (pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) for the governance of the land and naval forces. Those rules and regulations are set forth in the United States Code (the laws enacted by the Congress and signed by the President) in USC, Title 10, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 47 which is known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

The provisions of the UCMJ are implemented by the executive order of the President/Commander-in-Chief known as "The Manual for Courts-Martial" and explained to every member of our armed forces during their basic training/boot camp and again on an annual basis throughout his or her military service.

Manning knew (or should have known) those rules.

The UCMJ Article 32 (grand jury proceedings) were properly conducted and, based on the findings in those proceedings, the determination was made that evidence sufficient to support the bringing of charges and specifications against Manning and referral of the case to trial by court-martial was made.

The case should proceed to trial.

For more than 30 years I lived by the same rules by which Manning agreed to be governed. Throughout that time I had access to sensitive security information and classified matter; and, had I believed an order to have been illegal, I had the right to bring the matter to the attention of my superiors all the way to the top of the chain of command.

I did not have the right to divulge any official information (classified or otherwise) to persons not authorized to access it.

The determination Manning’s guilt or innocence are not for public opinion to determine but can only properly be decided under the laws prescribed by the Congress.

To ignore the offenses he is alleged to have committed would be tantamount to giving every man and woman who takes the oath to serve, protect and defend the Constitution license to violate the rules.

The military is not an anarchic system and the rules must be applied uniformly to all who serve.

If Manning were to be found guilty—even if the sentence were to extend to imposition of the death penalty which is off the table—he should face the consequences of his actions; and, again, the President should not be involved in any of the proceedings.

Manning, no matter his sexual orientation/gender identity or his agreement or disagreement with the decisions taken as regards the conduct of military actions, should be treated no differently than would be any other member of our land and naval forces.

Albert M. Forget
— a retired, U. S. Navy command master chief petty officer and one who did not support the invasion of Iraq
More...
Posted by alfroggy on August 20, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
19
I was about to comment on Manning being in the military, and thus not subject to the same rules, but Master Chief covered it pretty solidly.

For the TL;DR crowd, he swore the oath, bound himself to the UCMJ, and he can and SHOULD be tried by it. It is a military matter, not a civilian one. The Dept of Justice and the president have nothing to do with it. Security breaches within the military, ESPECIALLY intentional breaches, should be dealt with strictly, as it will be with Manning.
Posted by TheRob on August 21, 2012 at 2:54 PM · Report this
20
I was about to comment on Manning being in the military, and thus not subject to the same rules, but Master Chief covered it pretty solidly.

For the TL;DR crowd, he swore the oath, bound himself to the UCMJ, and he can and SHOULD be tried by it. It is a military matter, not a civilian one. The Dept of Justice and the president have nothing to do with it. Security breaches within the military, ESPECIALLY intentional breaches, should be dealt with strictly, as it will be with Manning.
Posted by TheRob on August 21, 2012 at 2:55 PM · Report this
21
Thanks, you guys. Nice to know in your eyes the indiscriminate strafing and murder of innocent civilians and journalists by our military is an excusable offense, but disclosing it merits inexcusable over-reaction. Which, of course, is also excused.
Posted by Brrrrzap! on August 22, 2012 at 4:02 AM · Report this
gtk 22
Manning is a coward not a hero and for those of you who view him as such I pity you and your warped sense of reality.
Posted by gtk on August 22, 2012 at 5:14 AM · Report this
IsabellaByersKerr 23
The powerless and economically vulnerable are held to punishingly harsh standards, while the rich and powerful get away with a slap on the wrist (if that).

Tragically true.
Posted by IsabellaByersKerr on August 24, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
24
Your post sheds light on Manning's story. Anyway in these political ages I believe the truth is somewhere on the middle.
Posted by Mobile Marketer on August 26, 2012 at 12:49 AM · Report this
25
GREAT piece by Jake Blumgart that gives sense of scale to case and media's poor treatment.
Thank you.
-R. Riski, Peninsula College Journalism/Mass Media
Posted by rriski on September 5, 2012 at 1:33 PM · Report this
26
The information about the proceedings of the Bradley Manning prosecution is essential to our understanding of how the government (which in the U.S. includes the military) works. As citizens of a democracy, we do not hand over the rule of law to the military, simply because there are separate laws that govern military conduct. The release of documents about how the US government conducts its business (which Bradley Manning facilitated) enables decision making by an INFORMED electorate, which the functioning of a democracy is predicated upon. In this age of electronic communications and rapidly changing norms and rules regarding communications the Manning prosecution illuminates many important communications issues that American citizens need to engage in. THANKS to the Stranger for making this information available- and facilitating this debate that is so essential to our democratic process.
Posted by llynadele on September 25, 2012 at 10:26 AM · Report this

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