Bradley Manning: ‘I Will Recover From This … This Is Just a Stage in My Life’
By Alexa O’Brien
August 21st 20131:58 pm
Sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking documents to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning has vowed to stay positive, his defense lawyers tells Alexa O’Brien in an exclusive interview.
FORT MEADE, MARYLAND—Just after receiving a sentence of 35 years in prison for transmitting hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and U.S. Army reports to WikiLeaks in 2010, Bradley Manning was in a surprisingly “cheerful mood,” according to his attorney.
“He said, ‘Hey, it’s OK. It’s all right. I know you did everything you could for me. Don’t cry. Be happy. It’s fine. This is just a stage in my life. I am moving forward. I will recover from this,’” his defense lawyer David Coombs said in an interview conducted immediately after the sentencing.
Presiding military judge Col. Denise Lind sternly handed down the sentence to a packed courtroom, stating only, “Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, this court sentences you to be reduced to the grade of Private E-1, to forfeit all pay and allowances, to be confined for 35 years, and to be dishonorably discharged from the service.”
Coombs was stunned. “I look at the sentence, and I can’t believe that was actually the sentence he received,” he told The Daily Beast. “There is a good young man who did what he thought was morally right and for the right reasons, and he was sentenced the way we would sentence somebody who committed murder—the way we would sentence somebody who molested a child. That is the sentence he received.”
Twitter responded strongly in Bradley Manning’s behalf when the sentence was handed down.
Despite the clear devastation among supporters of Manning, however, Coombs said that the defendant was in good spirits. “Interestingly, Manning was the one who was cheering everyone up,” he said.
While perhaps proportional with the Information Age that Manning was born into, the disclosures were unprecedented in scale and scope and resulted in the largest criminal investigation ever into a publisher and its source.
At trial and sentencing, the prosecution cast Manning as a traitor who was indiscriminately harvesting information for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in willful disregard of the safety of military personnel and the national security of the United States. They asked the judge to put Manning away for 60 years: “He betrayed the United States, and for that betrayal he deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in confinement.”
Manning was convicted on six espionage charges on the standard of probable harm from the release. In total, he was found guilty of 20 offenses, including espionage, “exceeding authorized access,” stealing government property, and the newfangled offense of “wanton publication.” That charge has never been used in military law and is not tied to any existing federal criminal violation or punitive article under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
He was acquitted, however, of “aiding the enemy,” one of two offenses under the code that apply to any people and not just members of the military. Lind ruled that Manning’s good-faith motive and any actual damage (or lack of damage) were not relevant and thus relegated to the sentencing phase.
The question remains if and when the Department of Justice intends to unseal any possible indictment against Assange, editor in chief of WikiLeaks.
Much of the court record—the largest of any in military history—was hidden from the public. The public only got access 1,103 days into the legal proceeding. Because so much of the critical parts of the trial were conducted in closed sessions and obscurity, the public has been largely unclear on the actual impact of the leaks. Prosecution witnesses—government employees and federal contractors—testified in open session that no death resulted as a result of the leaks. But the prosecution presented evidence of mitigation efforts and temporary disruptions as well as future of possible threats to military operations and diplomatic efforts.
Asked what the worst damage from the leaks was, Coombs said, “I personally … I think the most damage done was the sentence that my client received. If you are talking about damage from a standpoint of what he released—embarrassment. Embarrassment was the most damage.”
A congressional official who had been briefed by the State Department in late 2010 and early 2011 told Reuters, “The administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.” The revelations, the congressional aide said, “were embarrassing, but not damaging.”
In a press conference after the sentencing, Bradley Manning’s lawyer read a statement from Manning himself. “Sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society,” wrote Manning.
“He was sentenced the way we would sentence somebody who committed murder.”
Manning will immediately appeal for clemency to the court-martial convening authority, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, commander of the Military District of Washington, who can dismiss any guilty findings and reduce the sentence. Buchanan cannot, however, reverse a finding of not guilty or increase Manning’s sentence. After a review by Buchanan, Manning’s case will be automatically appealed to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
Manning’s lead civilian defense counsel also announced that he is applying for a presidential pardon for his client. The application to President Obama will be joined by a partnership between Amnesty International and the Bradley Manning Support Network on whitehouse.gov to commute his sentence to time served.
Obama said in April 2011, “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. [Manning] broke the law.” Manning’s defense team characterized Obama’s comments as unlawful command influence. They also sought and were denied the opportunity to depose the president.
Manning is expected to serve his sentence at Fort Leavenworth, where he has been in pretrial confinement since April 2011. Prior to that, Manning was held in pretrial confinement at Marine Corp Base Quantico Brig for nine months. U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Méndez called his treatment at the Quantico Brig “cruel, inhuman, and degrading.” Manning was forced to strip and remain on a suicide-risk regime against the recommendations of Brig mental-health professionals. Lind ruled that a portion of his time at Quantico was unlawful, but granted Manning only 112 days of credit on his sentence for it. Manning’s sentence of 35 years will also be reduced by 1,293 days for time already served.
Despite being placed in pretrial confinement longer than any accused awaiting court-martial, Lind ruled that the government did not violate Manning’s right to a speedy trial. (Many witnesses during the motions phase of the trial concerning Manning’s unlawful treatment at Quantico could not remember events clearly because they were so long ago.)
Manning directed defense counsel to engage with the press only using text-based media and to be as “accurate as possible, and try to get to the actual topic, and try to be as factual as possible, and try to be as neutral as possible.”
Manning ultimately opted to be tried by military judge alone instead of a panel of officers and enlisted personnel. During the pretrial, the prosecution blocked Manning’s defense from adding questions to a questionnaire for panel members intended to determine potential bias toward gay and/or transgender people.
The Washington Post reported recently that Judge Lind was recently promoted to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, where Manning’s case will automatically be appealed.
The defense strategy at trial was as much about mitigating as acquitting. During sentencing, the defense emphasized that Manning was young, naive, and good intentioned. They called a forensic psychiatrist who testified that “Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and future wars, actually.”
Manning’s defense sought an appropriate sentence that would enable him to still have a life, asking the judge not to “rob him of his youth” and adding that Manning “is a young man who certainly, at this time, was, in fact, young—was, in fact, naive as to the second and third effects, but certainly was good intentioned.” The defense ended by saying, “Manning cared about human life. He was a humanist. His biggest crime was that he cared about loss of life that he was seeing.”
When asked if Manning received a fair trial, Coombs said, “The perception is no. He didn’t receive a fair trial and that should be problematic for people. That should be problematic for our military, and hopefully that will be problematic for the president of the United States, and he should do something about it.”
Walter Goodman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
HERE YOU´LL FIND THE WHOLE ARTICLE
a daily independent global news hour
To discuss Bradley Manning’s recorded court statement that was recently leaked to the press, we’re joined by perhaps the country’s most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, the secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. “What we’ve heard are people like The New York Times who have consistently slandered him … that he was vague and couldn’t think of specific instances that had led him to inform the American people of injustices,” Ellsberg says. “The American people can now, for the first time, hear Bradley in his own words, emotionally and in the greatest specific detail, tell what it was that he felt that needed revelation.” [includes rush transcript]
This is viewer supported news
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest in studio at the University of California, Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Dan, can you talk about the significance of the release of this surreptitiously recorded audio of Bradley Manning’s statement in court?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Hello, hello, hello. They’re working on—
AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Dan. Can you talk about the significance of the audiotape?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Yes, this is the first time in three years that the American public has had a chance to have an unfiltered impression of Private Bradley Manning himself, in his own words, in his own voice. For three years, he has been virtually incommunicado except for his lawyers, and we’ve heard only third-hand hearsay, often by people who aren’t at all sympathetic to him, about his nature and why he did.
By pleading guilty to these military—violating these military regulations, which he almost surely did, he’s freed himself to speak out now as to what exactly he did do and why he did it. If he can, of course, explain why he did what he did while he was still pleading not guilty and putting the burden of the proof on his actions on the government, that was his right to do, but it prevented him from saying that he had done the things, the acts, they were charging. In other words, he’s in exactly the same position I was in at the beginning of my trial, when I took full responsibility and I stipulated to all the facts that were presented in the trial. There was nothing to argue about, about what I had done.
The issue in my case was whether any law had been broken. Apparently, The New York Times never got to understand how I was pleading not guilty when I had indeed admitted to exactly what I had done. Bill Keller, obviously, the later executive editor of the Times, has never come to understand the problematic nature of the charges I was faced with and that Bradley Manning is faced with. I know them by heart: 18 U.S.C. 793 paragraphs (d) and (e). The best legal advisers at the time, like Mel Nimmer, said that those acts were unconstitutional, those portions, as applied to a leaker, instead of being applied to someone who had secretly given information to a foreign government or an enemy, the espionage that the Espionage Act was named for. To use them against someone like Manning or me who gave information for the benefit of the American people was not at all the intention of Congress, never was the intention of Congress. And so, whereas I did what I did, essentially, in my era, the comparable acts to what Manning did, the argument is very strong, legally, that we had not broken any law that could hold up as constitutional.
AARON MATÉ: Well, Dan Ellsberg—
DANIEL ELLSBERG: I was—moreover, he was also free now, by having admitted these acts, as I was at the beginning of my trial, to take full responsibility, not only morally, but to say specifically: No one else in the government had helped me, no one had taken any part of it, no one knew anything of it. So they were off the hook, even though President Nixon continued to suspect, wrongly, that the FBI was wrong and that I had not acted alone.
In Manning’s case, he’s now able to say, in his own voice, for the public to hear for the first time, that he acted before he had had any contact with Assange. He had made his decision. They did not encourage him or press him. They did nothing more than any journalist would do in course of allowing him to get his information to them. In short, The New York Times, which should not be subject to these charges, surely, is, in the eyes of the government, just as guilty as WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. And if there’s going to be continued, after this acknowledgment, a grand jury investigating Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, there should be a grand jury investigating The New York Times — there won’t be — because they did exactly the same thing.
AARON MATÉ: Well, Dan Ellsberg, speaking of The New York Times —
DANIEL ELLSBERG: So he was able to then—yes. ….
Icelandic MP planning Bradley Manning support trip despite US legal threats
Published: 12 February, 2013, 03:21
Despite potential legal retribution from American authorities, the Icelandic MP and WikiLeaks member who released the infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ video showing US war crimes in Iraq has announced plans to visit the land of the free.
Birgitta Jonsdottir is an Icelandic Member of Parliament who nearly three years ago released a classified video of a US Apache helicopter killing civilians in Iraq. Known as ‘Collateral Murder,’ Jonsdottir made the footage public in a bid to express her support for Bradley Manning, the video’s alleged source, who now stands trial for treason. The video was also instrumental in unleashing the witchhunt on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.
Jonsdottir is planning to arrive in the US on April 5, despite a strong warning from Reykjavík of possible legal repurcussions. The politician says her trip, which coincides with the third anniversary of the video’s release, is her way of saying she refuses to live in fear.
“I don’t want to live in the shadows. I don’t think I’ve done anything illegal or that I’m an enemy of the US state, but if they think I’ve committed a crime, I want to know,” she told The Guardian.
Jónsdóttir also plans to exhibit photographs drawn from the ‘Collateral Murder’ on her itinerary in New York and Los Angeles. In June, the MP hopes to take the exhibition across the US ahead of Manning’s trial.
“It’s deeply troubling to me that he is the only one suffering the consequences – none of the people responsible for the war crimes in the video have been held accountable,” Jonsdottir says.
Following the release of the video, Washington has tried repeatedly to gain access to Jónsdóttir’s private information. In 2011, Twitter was forced to release her user data after a subpoena from Washington demanded personal data from her feed dating back to 2009.
Jonsdottir became the subject of US attention in 2010 when she helped Assange prepare the footage of the Apache attack allegedly leaked by Manning, who was deployed in Iraq at that time. She was responsible for organizing the volunteers, researched details of the footage of a US airstrike in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, and selected stills for distribution to the media. Eight men were killed in the attack, including two Reuters correspondents.
After the video’s release, Manning was arrested as the suspected source of the video and a large cache of diplomatic cables that he’d allegedly leaked to Assange. Manning now faces 22 counts of breaching national security, charges punishable with up to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Earlier in February, it was revealed that Iceland refused to cooperate with an FBI investigation into WikiLeaks back in August 2011, with the Icelandic interior minister having “made it clear that people interviewed or interrogated in Iceland should be interrogated by Icelandic police.”
Bradley Manning Deserves Americans’ Support for Military Whistleblowing.
Nobel Prize Winners Say
Bradley Manning Deserves Americans’ Support for Military Whistleblowing
Thanks to WikiLeaks, US citizens are better informed about wars prosecuted in their name. We owe Manning honour, not jail time
By Desmond Tutu, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
November 16, 2012 “The Guardian” – – — Last week, PFC Bradley Manning offered to accept responsibility for releasing classified documents as an act of conscience – not as charged by the US military. As people who have worked for decades against the increased militarization of societies and for international cooperation to end war, we have been deeply dismayed by his treatment. The military under the Obama administration has displayed a desire to over-prosecute whistleblowing with life-in-prison charges including espionage and “aiding the enemy”, a disturbing decision which is no doubt intended to set an example.
We have dedicated our lives to working for peace because we have seen many faces of armed conflict and violence, and we understand that no matter the cause of war, civilians always bear the brunt of the cost. With today’s advanced military technology and the continued ability of business and political elites to filter what information is made public, there exists a great barrier to many citizens being fully aware of the realities and consequences of conflicts in which their country is engaged.
Responsible governance requires fully informed citizens who can question their leadership. For those citizens worldwide who do not have direct, intimate knowledge of war, yet are still affected by rising international tensions and failing economies, WikiLeaks releases attributed to Bradley Manning have provided unparalleled access to important facts.
Revealing covert crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and corporations’ pervasive influence in governance, this window into the realities of modern international relations has changed the world for the better. While some of these documents may demonstrate how much work lies ahead in terms of securing international peace and justice, they also highlight the potential of the internet as a forum for citizens to participate more directly in civic discussion and creative government accountability projects.
Questioning authority, as a soldier, is not easy. But it can, at times, be honorable. Words attributed to Bradley Manning reveal that he went through a profound moral struggle between the time he enlisted and when he became a whistleblower. Through his experience in Iraq, witnessing suffering of innocent civilians and soldiers alike, he became disturbed by top-level policy that undervalued human life. Like other courageous whistleblowers, he was driven foremost by a desire to reveal the truth.
PFC Bradley Manning said in chat logs attributed to him that he hoped the releases would bring “debates, discussions and reform”, and condemned the ways in which the “first world exploits the third.” Much of the world regards PFC Manning as a hero for these efforts toward peace and transparency, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result. Much as when high-ranking officials in the United States and Britain misled the public in 2003 by saying there was an imminent need to invade Iraq to stop them from using weapons of mass destruction, however, the world’s most powerful elites have again insulted international opinion and the intelligence of many citizens by withholding facts regarding Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks.
The military prosecution has not presented evidence that, by releasing secret documents, PFC Manning injured anyone, and they have asserted in court that the charge of “aiding the enemy through indirect means” does not require them to. Nor have they denied that his motivations were conscientious; they have simply argued they are irrelevant. In ignoring this context, and recommending a much more severe punishment for Bradley Manning than is given to US soldiers guilty of murdering civilians, military leadership is sending a chilling warning to other soldiers who would feel compelled by conscience to reveal misdeeds. It is our belief that leaders who use fear to govern, rather than sharing wisdom born from facts, cannot be just.
We Nobel Peace Prize laureates condemn the persecution Bradley Manning has suffered, including imprisonment in conditions declared “cruel, inhuman and degrading” by the United Nations, and call upon US citizens to stand up in support of this whistleblower who defended their democratic rights. In the conflict in Iraq alone, more than 110,000 people have died since 2003, millions have been displaced, and nearly 4,500 American soldiers have been killed. If someone needs to be held accountable for endangering Americans and civilians, let’s first take the time to examine the evidence regarding high-level crimes already committed, and what lessons can be learned.
If Bradley Manning released the documents attributed to him, we should express to him our gratitude for his efforts toward accountability in government, informed democracy and peace.
• For further information, visit the Bradley Manning Support Network