Thursday, March 03, 2011

And Who Is My Enemy?

While most of the attention in the WikiLeaks matters has been focused on Julian Assange, the head of that shadowy internet organization, Pfc Bradley Manning, the soldier who is charged with sending WikiLeaks a trove of emails and diplomatic cables, continues to sit in an Army jail awaiting a court martial. Military prosecutors have decided to amp up that proceeding by adding to the charges now pending.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Army has charged Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of leaking thousands of documents published by WikiLeaks, with aiding and giving intelligence to the enemy, a significant escalation of the government's prosecution of the junior intelligence analyst.

As part of 22 additional counts filed against Manning, Army prosecutors said he "wrongfully and wantonly" caused intelligence to be published on the Internet, with the knowledge that it would be "accessible to the enemy."

The punishment for that charge is death, although the prosecutors have indicated they won't be seeking that penalty. So why the charge? One theory is that the prosecution hopes to force a plea bargain in order to avoid a trial, one that might be very difficult. It seems to me, however, that such a charge only complicates the trial further by imposing a heavier burden on the prosecution:

To violate the military statute against aiding the enemy, a defendant must knowingly harbor, give intelligence to or communicate with the enemy, "either directly or indirectly." The charges against Manning allege that he did so "through indirect means," apparently a reference to the fact that information was made public on the Internet, making it available to anyone.

That's a pretty tough row to hoe. If Manning refuses any plea deal, then the prosecutors have to at least identify an enemy and establish that Manning intended to aid that enemy.

Of course, we all know who the government considers the real enemy, and right now it isn't Osama bin Laden. It's Julian Assange, the man who with his organization is trying force some transparency on the US government and who has embarrassed the government time and again with revelations on just what secrets are being kept away from us.

And Pfc. Bradley Manning? He's just a pawn, one who very well might spend the rest of his life in an Army prison.

What a country.



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