The Outrage of Manning’s ‘Aiding the Enemy’ Charges

The fact that Bradley Manning is being punished for exposing government crimes, lies, and misdeeds is a travesty unto itself, if you ask me. But charging him with “aiding the enemy” – which is punishable by death – is just piling on.

In court on Tuesday, Manning’s defense lawyers tried to get a significantly reduced jail time sentence due to the fact that Manning was held in abusive conditions – solitary confinement 23 hours a day, kept under  a strict suicide watch and often ordered to strip naked. The judge lifted a pitiful 112 days off of Manning’s potential life sentence.

The absurd charge of aiding the enemy – as if Manning had some connection or intention with al-Qaeda – refers to Manning’s alleged leak of classified material to WikiLeaks, a website. The ACLU explains:

The key to the government’s case is this simple claim: that posting intelligence information to the internet aids Al Qaeda because Al Qaeda has access to the internet.

…The government does not contend that Manning gave any information to Al Qaeda, or even that he intended that Al Qaeda receive it. 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. Specifically, the government contends that Manning violated Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which provides that “any person who . . . gives intelligence to or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly; shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.”

Article 104 is not limited to sensitive or classified information — it prohibits any unauthorized communication or contact with an enemy. 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.

Manning’s attorneys have tried to get the judge to throw out these ridiculous charges, but the judge has refused. While the prosecution claims the charges are appropriate, Manning’s lawyers point out, apparently without objection, that such aiding the enemy charges have never been used this way. Politico’s Josh Gerstein:

“Publishing information in a newspaper [can] indirectly convey information to the enemy,” prosecutor Capt. Angel Overgaard said Tuesday during the pretrial hearing. She said courts in past cases had recognized that such disclosures could constitute aiding the enemy.

However, defense attorney David Coombs said those cases date to the Civil War and involve publishing coded messages, not conveying information evident to everyone on its face.

“Every case that charges Article 104 [aiding the enemy] deals with somebody who had given information directly to the enemy. This case is unprecedented,” defens attorney David Coombs said during the session. “There’s been no case in the entire history of military jurisprudence that dealt with somebody providing information to a legitimate journalistic organization and having them publish it and that involved dealing with the enemy.”

Daniel Ellsberg is today almost universally considered a hero for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971. He wins awards, goes on television, he’s a renowned figure and activist. The material he leaked to the press was designated Top Secret, and – partly due to the abuse he was subjected to by the government for it – he was able to live out his life in freedom. Contrast that with Manning, who leaked nothing marked Top Secret, all of it was marked Secret or Classified – much lower secrecy classifications. Yet, he possibly faces charges akin to treason and punishable by death. What an outrage!

  • JLS

    What enemy were we supposed to be fighting in Iraq?

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  • igotitknow

    it all makes perfect sense, once you understand that
    “we, the people” is the enemy of government.

  • Yonatan

    It makes sense if you assume that the real enemy of the US government is the US people.

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  • michaelhamrin

    The enemy is the principled and aroused US citizenry who ought to be "mad as hell" at the wicked and cynical destruction of innocent indigenous people groups. Keep Joe Sixpack in the dark and continue the travesty without resistance. Whomever still has a pulse and the ability to empathize with millions of victims of US adventurism are now potentially "the enemy". Nothing has changed from the Wilsonian era of defining treason as reluctance.

  • the lion

    Since Bush got away with the refusal of giving the Afghan Prisoners Geneva status, remembering that at the time of the Attack on Afghanistan both the UN and the US were in contact with the Taliban as the Government of Afghanistan, and the Bush Governmant was actually gifting monies to them for Opium Poppy field eradication (the Opium fields belonged to the Northern Alliance). That means that EVERY Taliban captured. That includes those that are captured now as well!

    The United States has got to the stage they refuse to even obey their own Precedents, those on Waterboarding as torture, YOO couldnt find precedents but he didnt look hard, he didnt want to! I know of a first year law student tasked in a small Australian Law Library that found them in less than a day. Sad but true!

    America once a country of laws is now almost a Facist state where the Government is always right even when it is WRONG!

  • hjdpjvtt

    The fight had no enemy since you were fighting an idealogy !
    Then if Manning indirectly aided and abetted the enemy because what he put on the internet is accessable by Al Queda, than the court should also be charged. Why ? Because the details of
    the case they present in court will also be available on the net.
    Shouild we make citizen arrests of the court officials.
    Additionally, if Al Quida is the enemy, why is the Justice Department preparing a case against WIKI? It seems easier for kids in kindergarden to decide which candy they prefer !

  • Can there be a statutory "enemy" when there is no declared war?

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  • byrd_bahls22

    A wonderful young man ! Let him out.

  • Tricky Dick

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember Congress declaring war on anyone in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Storm, or Korea. So, how could low-ranking enlisted man Manning aid the enemy? What enemy?

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