Manning Faces Up to 136 Years in Prison for Alerting You to What Your Government Does in Your Name

Bradley Manning is innocent, according to Judge Colonel Denise Lind, of aiding the enemy.

With this verdict, truly horrible consequences for freedom of speech are averted.

Nevertheless, according to the invaluable Alexa O’Brien, Manning still faces a maximum 136 years for the 20 (out of 22) charges on which he was found guilty. [corrected total number of charges/guilty verdicts]

When Manning plead guilty in February to 10 lesser charges (Lind accepted 2 of those pleas), he said he hoped his leaks “could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.” For that, the government accused him of being a traitor.

Lind agreed with the government on almost every other issue but that one. And for his efforts, Manning may well spend the rest of his life in prison.

Update: Here’s my longer take at Salon. Note this bit:

There is one more significant detail in Lind’s ruling today. In addition to aiding the enemy, the one other charge she found Manning innocent of involved leaking a video of a civilian massacre in Garani, Afghanstan. While Manning admitted accessing the video, the government insisted he had leaked it months before Manning admitted to accessing the video (and before forensic evidence showed he had). This claim — one Lind said they did not prove — was key to their claims that Manning had planned to leak to WikiLeaks from the start of his deployment to Iraq.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

23 replies
  1. What Constitution says:

    The prosecutors should be ashamed of themselves for signing up to argue that this case raised any question of life in prison for intentionally “aiding the enemy” on these facts. That claim being rejected, it’s about the just repercussions upon this man, who already acknowledges his violation of law.

    It’s time for (1) dishonorable discharge; (2) release for time served; (3) commutation of sentence; and (4) pardon.

    If this government wants to contend it’s a better government than the one Bradley Manning helped reveal to us, it can start with treating Bradley Manning humanely.

  2. burnspbesq says:

    Manning was convicted of “releasing classified documents knowing that they would be accessible to the enemy.” There’s a legal distinction between that charge and aiding the enemy, but no practical difference.

    Not guilty of aiding the enemy? OK. Innocent? Hardly.

  3. Arbusto says:

    I’m curious, since I believe the JAG had assistance from the DoJ from investigations to trial prep, whether Obama LLC will indict Manning, just because they can.

  4. Arbusto says:

    @Chris Harries: Well except Manning went against code of silence and never ratting. Besides, as the article pointed out, killing rag heads isn’t the same as expecting your country to live and act by a higher standard than our enemies, who or whatever they may be.

  5. Valley Girl says:

    Great reporting as usual, Marcy.

    Not knowing the details of timing, I confess that I don’t understand exactly what this sentence means.

    ~While Manning admitted accessing the video, the government insisted he had leaked it months before Manning admitted to accessing the video (and before forensic evidence showed he had).~

    this part:
    the government insisted he had leaked it months before Manning admitted to accessing the video (and before forensic evidence showed he had)

    what is unclear to me is-

    did it take months for Manning to admit that he had accessed the video?

    or

    Manning admitted than he had accessed the video, but Manning stated he had accessed the video (and shown by forensics) several months after the earlier time claimed by the prosecution?

  6. emptywheel says:

    @Valley Girl: The govt accused Manning of accessing and leaking the video in the months right after he got to Iraq. According to Manning, he barely knew of WikiLeaks at that point, but the govt wanted to prove that he did bc it served their narrative that he was leaking for WikiLeaks from the start.

    It was part of turning WL into a spy, I think.

    Thing is, they had no forensics to support that claim, and Manning had admitted he access (though I don’t think leaked) the video the next year–maybe 5-6 months later.

    The last question the judge asked the Prosecution is if they stood by their charged timeline. They said yes. I suspect if they said no, she would have found Manning guilty on that charge too.

  7. karenjj2 says:

    @ Valley Girl: your last paragraph is correct. Persecution was trying to hang an earlier release of the video on him but proven impossible given the date he was deployed.

  8. Valley Girl says:

    @emptywheel:

    @karenjj2:

    Thanks. But perhaps for those not as familiar with the case (that would be me, for example) would it be possible to revise the wording?

    Not for people reading at EW, but perhaps for Salon readers?

    If people are looking to make the worst interpretation of Manning’s behavior (or already assuming such) it might be worth changing, if possible.

    btw, I am not in category in above paragraph, but was simply confused.

    Thanks Marcy for your tireless work.

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    Is that LEGAL?

    Salon: Lind had also changed the wording of three charges against Manning after the end of the trial, adjusting them to the evidence the government had actually submitted at trial.

    Naw. Naw. No, Virginia…

  10. thatvisionthing says:

    Salon: Nor would the charge have been limited to outlets like WikiLeaks. While in its closing arguments, the government tried hard to describe WikiLeaks as different from other news outlets, when asked in a hearing in March whether the government would have charged Manning with “aiding the enemy” had he leaked directly to the New York Times, they said he would.

    Think the hearing date should be January:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/10/us/new-evidence-to-be-introduced-against-bradley-manning.html?_r=0
    NY Times 1/9/13

    Colonel Lind, the judge, asked a prosecutor a hypothetical question: If Private Manning had given the documents to The New York Times rather than to WikiLeaks, would he face the same charges?

    “Yes, ma’am,” said the prosecutor, Capt. Angel Overgaard.

  11. thatvisionthing says:

    Think must should be much:

    In the government’s closing argument, Prosecutor Major Ashden Fein described Manning using a term the government had not proven, must less charged: traitor. “Your Honor, he was not a whistleblower; he was a traitor.

  12. thatvisionthing says:

    @What Constitution: Dishonorable discharge? Absolutely disagree he has done anything dishonorable. The war is dishonorable. The trial is dishonorable. Bradley did honorable, extraordinary service to the world, which I think still includes us.

  13. thatvisionthing says:

    @bmaz: Why? You’re a lawyer. Tell us where equal justice under the law is to be found.

    cf Michael Moore’s post today; Hutchins is mentioned in it among many others.

    http://michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/what-bradley-mannings-sentence-will-tell-us-about-military-justice-system

    My guess is Bradley Manning will spend more time in jail than all of the other soldiers in all of these cases put together. And thus, instead of redeeming ourselves and asking forgiveness for the crimes that Spc. Manning exposed, we will reaffirm to the world who we really are.

    (Thank you, Michael Moore.)

  14. thatvisionthing says:

    And when will Nuremberg matter?

    http://www.correntewire.com/daniel_ellsberg_reaction_to_bradley_manning_trial

    Scott Horton: All right, now, Dan, before you leaked from the Rand Corporation all that, you were a Marine. You know all of this, the matter of – and obviously charged as you were by the Nixon goons, clearly you’re very familiar with the legalities of all of this. So what I wonder is if you could answer, according to Manning, the situation that he was put in of helping the Iraqi police arrest and then presumably torture people for writing articles – never mind morality and what’s just the right thing, but what was his legal obligation at that point when his commanding officer ordered him to continue?

    Daniel Ellsberg: First to reveal to his commanding officer – well, to a superior officer – what he had discovered. And he was very excited by that. And he ran, as everybody has agreed, he ran to the officer to tell him that he had discovered that these people were wrongfully convicted, wrongfully held, and were going to be tortured and should be released. The first point was that his superior officer told him that he should forget that, don’t worry about that; his job was collecting more suspects, on the same basis as before, and handing them over to the Iraqis – we got points for that, giving them prisoners to torture – and that’s what he should do.

    Now that was an illegal response. The legal response would have been investigate this further and do what we can to stop it. We are legally obligated to do that. So the order not to investigate and not to act was an illegal order. Under Nuremberg it’s blatantly illegal, and he I think knew that. Certainly if you recognize it as such, it’s your Nuremberg obligation to disobey an illegal order.

  15. thatvisionthing says:

    Blind lady! Over here!

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bradley-manning-found-guilty-on-20-counts-not-guilty-of-aiding-the-enemy-20130730

    “It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning’s trial was about sending a message,” Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “The U.S. government will come after you, no holds barred, if you’re thinking of revealing evidence of its unlawful behavior.”

  16. Michael Murry says:

    You see, President Putin, what foul treatment awaits Edward Snowden if you do not grant him asylum or help him get to a civilized country which will?

  17. JTMinIA says:

    At the height of the Chinese empire, they had a rule which said, in effect, that a prosecutor (magistrate) who could not sustain a charge against someone should be punished with the same penalty that the defendant was facing.

    Wouldn’t that be fun.

  18. Brianna says:

    If you sign papers that state that you are agreeing to keep certain information classified, you need to be doing so and I am firsthand experienced in these goings on when one is being sworn in, etc. There are always going to be consequences for doing the opposite of what is promised by you with your signature and your word and what’s expected of you. The government at that point has to do what they have to do. That
    said, the motive of these men was to inform us of what or government is not and for that I believe that though under there sworn word and what was expected of them, they are wrong but as citizens they are doing there duty to there fellow Americans.

    expected of you. That being said, I

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