Accused Whistleblower Bradley Manning Begins Court Proceedings

Accused Whistleblower Bradley Manning Begins Court Proceedings

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Yesterday, Friday, December 16th, at Fort Meade, twenty-three year old United States Army Private, Bradley E. Manning, stood for an Article 32 hearing. This hearing was the first legal proceeding Manning has faced in the eighteen months since his arrest, in May 2010. Manning is being accused of, “... aiding the enemy; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy; theft of public property or records; transmitting defense information; fraud and related activity in connection with computers; and for violating Army Regulations 25-2 “Information Assurance” and 380-5 “Department of the Army Information Security Program.” (The U.S. Army Military District of Washington, Media Advisory)

In 2009, Manning was stationed near Baghdad as a Specialist. There he had enormous access to classified government intelligence. Manning is alleged to have contacted Wikileaks, the online not-for-profit “whistleblower” organization that has become infamous via publishing millions of secret government leaked informations, in November 2009. It is presumed that Manning began leaking private cables shortly thereafter. In May 2010, Manning was arrested when, Adrian Lamo, a well-known computer hacker, informed the FBI that Manning had confided, in online conversations, that he had downloaded government material and passed it to WikiLeaks. Purported leaked material includes, among other things, 250,000 government cables and the video 'Collateral Murder'. This video shows Baghdad 2007 airstrikes that explicate: the casual radio chatter between the US soliders, the ground units involved, the murders of unarmed citizens, and the executions of war correspondents carrying cameras mistaken for weapons.


Since July 2010, Manning has been held in maximum custody, in the Marine Corps Brig, in Quantico,Virginia. Inside sources state that Manning has been held in solitary confinement, for extensive periods, and has been routinely exposed to conditions tatamount to torture.


Bradley Manning's case has ignited passionate controversy, across multiple fronts. Anti-war and free speech activists herald Manning as a hero - for releasing documents, that, the activists say, keep the government accountable for their acts. Others claim that Manning is a traitor and had aided the enemy. Daniel Ellsberg, arguably the country's most famous whistleblower, who in 1971, as a military analyst, released highly classified Pentagon documents that detailed the US's involvement in Vietnam, has stated that, “The charges against Bradley Manning are an indictment of our government’s obsession with secrecy. Manning is accused of revealing illegal activities by our government and its corporate partners that must be brought to the attention of the American people. The Obama administration lacks the courage to confront the crimes and injustices that now stand exposed... If Bradley Manning did what he’s accused of, then he’s a hero of mine and I think he did a great service to this country.”


Beyond the immediate the ethical debates surrounding information access and a democractic government's necessary accountability, further controversy has mounted on both: the treatment of Manning while serving in the military and since his treatment post-arrest. Numerous accounts detail that he was excessively bullied while serving in the military. Accounts state that this bullying stemmed from his effiminate nature and, furthermore, for being openly gay pre-enlistment. It is unclear, at this time, if the defense will argue that Manning was mentally unfit to serve. Evidence bears multiple sources detailing their belief that Manning wasn't emotionally/mentally stable. At one point, it appears that Manning was set for discharge, due to possible instability, but was then “recycled” back into the forces. Manning was also demoted, in May 2010, from “Specialist” to “Private First Class” after punching an officer. Several accounts cite his “instability” was due to his growing dissatisfaction with the military, deep questions on governmental motives, and the excessive bullying he faced due to his gender performance and sexual orientation. As Manning has received little-to-no mental attention throughout these periods, the reality is unclear.

Deep contention has also broken out over the potentially torturous conditions that Manning is alleged to be suffering while in confinement, the 22 charges he faces, and the potential for Manning to face capital punishment. Recently, over 50 members of European Parliament wrote a signed letter protesting this treatment, stated inordinate charges, and the fact that Manning had yet to face trial after well-over a year in confinement.


These hearings are equivalent to a grand jury hearing. They could last up-to five days. In this process, a military judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence to court-martial. Manning's defense has attempted to call almost 50 witnesses, including President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, to the pre-trial hearing. The government has opposed all defense witnesses but the ten they were already intending to call. The defense declares that these witness denials disallows for a fair hearing.


At this time, the US government contends that they do not wish to seek the death penalty. If convicted, Manning faces life in prison.


At yesterday's proceedings Manning's lawyers requested for Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the presiding officer, to be removed from the hearings, due to alleged bias. The Army appeals court rejected their request late Friday.


Manning's hearing resumes today, December 17th, 2011. Today is also the soldier's 24th birthday.


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Corey Reidy has been an Indyreader collective member since the start of 2009. And.. she adores it with all her heart. When Reidy isn't editing, writing, interviewing, or other Indyreader-centric organizing, she works to do other forms of radical activism -- including, but not limited to, organizing/being a board member of Hollaback! Baltimore. If she's not organizing, Reidy is most likely reading, biking, or practicing/studying yoga (of which she adores and will 100% go to bat to defend and promote).