After 14 days and 80 witnesses, the United States government prosecuting Pfc. Bradley Manning in the long-awaited trial against the military whistleblower has rested their case.
As Manning’s defense team prepares to present their case next week, they are hoping Manning’s prospects have risen after the government was forced to close their portion of the trial with an “embarrassing admission” that the Army had misplaced Manning’s military contract, the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) , which laid out the terms of his access to classified information.
Over three years after being arrested for leaking details of military atrocities and intelligence to WikiLeaks, Manning is on trial for 21 charges including aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence.
Ahead of the trial, Judge Colonel Denise Lind stated that in order to prove their charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ the prosecution must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Manning had “a general evil intent,” in that he “had to know he was dealing, directly or indirectly, with an enemy of the US.”
Lind added that the soldier cannot be found guilty if he acted “inadvertently, accidentally, or negligently.”
Reporting from the trial, The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington writes, “Whether or not the prosecution succeeds in meeting that high bar set by Lind will have far-reaching implications, not just for Manning, whose fate depends on it, but also for the wider relationship in the US between government, whistleblowers and a free press.”
Explaining the gaff related to Manning’s missing military contract, Pilkington also reports:
The document is important as it clarifies whether or not the soldier exceeded the terms of the authorized access to secret documents through his work computer that he directly agreed to.
[ . . . ] The AUP could be relevant to charges that Manning knowingly exceeded authorized access to a secret internet network, that he obtained classified information without authorization and that he violated the computer fraud and abuse act.
Consequently, the defense is expected to begin next Monday with a motion to have a number of the charges against Manning dismissed on the grounds of lack of evidence.
To counter the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge, Manning’s attorney David Coombs will argue that, rather than premeditation, the soldier was provoked to leak information after witnessing a series of military atrocities and that he specifically chose information “that he believed the public should hear and see, information that would make the world a better place.”
Manning has already pleaded guilty to a number of charges which carry a combined maximum prison term of 20 years, including reduced charges on seven of eight espionage counts and two counts of computer fraud. He has also admitted guilt for violating a military regulation prohibiting wrongful storage of classified information.
“Such a substantial admission of responsibility has failed to satisfy military prosecutors, who are clearly determined to send a bold message that will give any would-be leaker pause,” notes Pilkington, who adds that the “aggression displayed” by the US government carries “additional significance” in light of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s ongoing attempts to seek amnesty from US persecution.
All of the trial transcripts are made available to the public via the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which has led a grassroots initiative to crowd-fund a stenographer for the duration of the trial.
Originally published in Common Dreams.