April 23, 2013. Fort Meade. When US Army whistleblower Bradley Manning goes on trial in five weeks, his court proceedings will be unprecedented. Some argue it won’t even be a real trial with the bizarre special exceptions government prosecutors have been awarded. And with Manning’s life hanging in the balance, his attorneys are finding it difficult to shape a defense with the level of secrecy being imposed by the presiding judge.
WikiLeaks' Julian Assange shows his support for PFC Bradley Manning.
For readers not familiar with the story of US Army Private Bradley Manning, that will soon change when his trial begins on June 3. He’s being tried for various acts of treason for allegedly ‘aiding the enemy’. If found guilty by the military court, he could be executed. Although, prosecutors have already indicated they will not seek the death penalty and instead will urge life in prison.
Who is Bradley Manning?
According to his supporters’ website, PFC Bradley Manning is described as follows:
‘Nobel Peace Prize nominee PFC Bradley Manning, a 24-year-old Army intelligence analyst, is accused of releasing the collateral murder video, that shows the killing of unnamed civilians and two Reuters journalists, by a US Apache helicopter crew in Iraq. He is also accused of sharing the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs, and a series of embarrassing US diplomatic cables. These documents were published by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, and they have illuminated such issues as the true number and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq, along with a number of human rights abuses by US-funded contractors and foreign militaries, and the role that spying and bribes play in international diplomacy. Given the war crimes exposed, if PFC Bradley Manning was the source for these documents, he should be given a medal of honor.’
To put it plainly, Manning insists he was only exposing war crimes and acts of treason being perpetrated by members of the US military and the US government during the Iraq and Afghan wars. How is it that exposing treason against America is an act of treason in itself? That’s what America will find out when his military trial begins this coming June. His website also reminds everyone, ‘Not a single person has been harmed by the release of this information…Yet the Obama administration has chosen to persecute the whistle-blower rather than prosecute the war criminals who were exposed.’
Pretrial motions (January ruling)
Presiding Judge Col. Denise Lind has attempted to lay out a framework of admissible and inadmissible evidence and testimony. In two separate pretrial rulings, one earlier this year and one earlier this month, Judge Lind seemed to acquiesce a little to both the prosecution and the defense. But in doing so, she may have created a circus-like atmosphere where an American citizen could be put to death without any evidence at all.
In the first ruling in January, Judge Lind made a decision devastating to Manning and his defense. She ruled that Bradley Manning’s motives were not relevant to his treason case. In other words, all the witnesses and evidence collected showing that the US Army Private was trying to help America, not hurt it, will not be admissible during the trial. That in itself was one of the cornerstones of his defense strategy.
On the positive side for PFC Manning, the judge ruled that defense attorneys could submit evidence proving that Manning had no prior knowledge that the volumes of details he released would aid the enemy. Most important of all, Judge Lind will allow Manning’s team to show that no harmful information ever made it into the hands of terrorists. They will also be allowed to demonstrate how the Private purposely did not leak certain details specifically because he knew it might aid the enemy.
Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Slew of Evidence barred in Bradley Manning Treason Trial’ for more information.
Pretrial motions (April ruling)
In a separate pretrial ruling earlier this month, Judge Lind decided on a number of prosecution and defense motions. In doing so, she set the stage for what could be the most bizarre trial in recent memory. Government prosecutors will be able to introduce secret witnesses, secret evidence, and secret testimony, all of which will be withheld from the public.
The UK’s Guardian described Lind’s ruling and the demands made by the US government writing, ‘The defense department and the CIA have demanded absolute anonymity for the individual, to the extent that he will appear in disguise in a closed session of the court at a secret location and with no media or public present.’ Prosecutors have hinted they intend to call to the stand a member of the Navy Seal team that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. The Seal member will testify that he found Manning-leaked WikiLeaks materials in bin Laden’s possession after the assassination.
Showing just how slanted the US intelligence apparatus is, volumes of evidence that could help prove Manning’s innocence will be barred from the trial because their disclosure was ruled a potential threat to national security. Defense lawyers incredulously point out that the documents, videos and communications were already dumped into the public domain by WikiLeaks and are the basis for the government’s entire argument.
In a victory for Bradley Manning and his defense, the judge also issued a ruling that the government and military prosecutors will have to prove that Bradley Manning had “reason to believe” the leaked materials would not only fall into enemy hands, but aid them in their war against America. That in itself will create a sticky dilemma for the judge. While the leaked documents and videos were embarrassing to the US government, they didn’t aid the enemy in any concrete, military way. But does propaganda against your own military, even if completely true, count as ‘aiding the enemy’? The entire trial may hinge on that one question and Judge Lind’s interpretation of it.
And for curious followers of the trial who would like to come to their own conclusion regarding the charge of aiding the enemy, they won’t be allowed to. Another of Judge Lind’s pretrial rulings covered the use of the word ‘enemy’. Prosecuting attorneys have introduced a lengthy list of terror organizations that benefitted from the leaked information. That list however is sealed and only available in a version that features CIA code names instead of the actual terror groups.
The whole idea of holding a criminal trial using anonymous witnesses at secret locations providing invisible evidence of undisclosed crimes by unnamed individuals will be a curious endeavor. The situation is so unique, the Judge has actually scheduled a pre-trial dry run using a stand-in witness to see how the process will work and to discover any unforeseen problems. Bradley Manning’s trial is scheduled to begin June 3 and last 12 weeks.
For more information, visit BradleyManning.org.