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Three Reasons Why the Charges against Bradley Manning Should be Dropped

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A military judge has rejected a request to dismiss all charges against U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who stands accused of passing secret material to the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.

Judge Denise Lind said there was no prosecutorial misconduct, ruling out the dropping of all 22 counts against Manning. The judge, however, did acknowledge Manning’s mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. military and granted him a mere 112 days credit off any eventual sentence.

“She confirmed that Bradley was mistreated, and vindicated the massive protest effect that was required to stop the Marines at Quantico from torturing Bradley,” Jeff Peterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network said. “Yet 112 days is not nearly enough to hold the military accountable for their actions.”

Notwithstanding Judge Lind’s rather obtuse ruling, a compelling case can still be made for the dismissal of all charges against Manning.

1. Mistreatment

First, let us consider Manning’s mistreatment.

During his pretrial detention, Manning was subjected to measures that appear to be right out of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” manual. A formal UN investigation denounced the conditions in which Manning was being held as “cruel and inhuman.” And there has even been some protest from within the U.S. government. In March 2011, President Obama’s state department spokesman, retired air force colonel P.J. Crowley, resigned after publicly condemning Manning’s treatment. Crowley told an audience that Manning was being mistreated by the Defense Department; he denounced the treatment as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

The forced nudity, prolonged solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, and other indignities that Manning endured strongly suggest his jailers were attempting to demoralize and break him, perhaps to turn him into a witness against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks and reportedly the target of a secret federal indictment. Whatever the motivations of Manning’s tormentors, their actions were abusive and illegal.

When such abuses are exposed, the interests of justice dictate that the accused should be immediately released and the charges dropped.

2. Prejudicial influence

Throughout this case, there has been improper command influence, which brings into doubt the ability of the U.S. military’s justice system to give Manning even a semblance of a fair trial.

When asked about the Manning case in April 2011, President Barack Obama said,

If you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

We’re a nation of laws! We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate.… He broke the law.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, has echoed his commander in chief, saying in response to a question about Manning, “We’re a nation of laws. He did violate the law.”

The jury that will decide Manning’s fate is made up of military officers selected by the Pentagon. These jurors are no doubt aware of the pronouncements by their president and the JCS chairman regarding the Manning case. What are the chances that these career military officers will contradict the highest ranking officer in the U.S. military and their commander-in-chief by delivering a not-guilty verdict? I say slim to none.

3. A whistle-blower, not a spy

While Manning may indeed be guilty of violating his confidentiality agreement with the U.S. government, his motives were that of a whistle-blower, not a spy or a traitor. Manning claimed to have dumped the documents onto WikiLeaks’ lap to expose “almost criminal political back dealings.” As Manning wrote in an online chat with the hacker who eventually exposed him,

If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do?

God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.

That’s a classic whistle-blower.

It should also be remembered that the material Manning allegedly leaked exposed crimes committed by U.S. diplomatic officials, the inaction of U.S. military brass when informed of torture inflicted on Iraqi prisoners by U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces, and what appear to be war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers. According to U.S. and international law, a soldier has a right and a duty to expose war crimes.

Thomas Drake, a former senior executive of the National Security Agency who blew the whistle on fraud and abuses being committed there, praises Manning’s actions. He writes,

Bradley, like myself, placed his conscience above his career. Yet those whose careers were embarrassed by the truth targeted the messenger with a chilling vengeance. As in my case, the government is unable to show any evidence of actual harm or advantage to a foreign nation or enemy as a result of Bradley’s actions. Also, as in my case, the prosecution has tried to prevent the defense from referencing any evidence of Bradley’s good intentions. Bradley stated prior to arrest, “I want people to see the truth, regardless of who they are, because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” For his honorable actions, Bradley faces life in prison.

Conclusion

Among the charges against Manning are “aiding the enemy” and “communicating with the enemy.” But the U.S. government has produced no evidence that Manning attempted to contact any foreign governments or terrorist organizations. Manning’s “crime” is having caused embarrassment and inconvenience for the U.S. government by exposing its misdeeds and crimes to the public.

This raises an important question. In accusing Manning of “aiding the enemy” and “communicating with the enemy,” who does the US government consider “the enemy?” Perhaps “the enemy” is us, the American people.

Bradley Manning, in exposing government crimes and wrongdoing, is a hero and a patriot. His mistreatment and trial lends credence to the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished — especially when that deed exposes many U.S. government officials for the liars, double-dealers, crooks, and psychopaths they are.

That the U.S. government is apparently getting away with punishing Bradley Manning without due process — and ignoring his rights as a U.S. citizen — underscores the corruption and moral decay of America’s political and legal system.

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    Tim Kelly is a columnist and policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia, a correspondent for Radio America’s Special Investigator, and a political cartoonist.