2013-07-15 Manning supporters hopeful for dismissal of major charges


Contact: Nathan Fuller, 516-578-2628

Bradley Manning supporters hopeful for dismissal of major charges

On Monday, July 15, military judge Colonel Denise Lind will hear oral arguments regarding four defense motions to dismiss major charges against U.S. Army whistle-blower PFC Bradley Manning. Proceedings begin at 3:00 PM, at Fort Meade, MD.

The government rested its case on July 2, at which point the defense filed motions for Judge Lind to direct not-guilty verdicts for charges that Manning "aided the enemy," committed computer fraud, and stole government property. An intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning passed documents to the transparency website WikiLeaks in 2010, hoping to expose war crimes and spark public debate and reforms.

In each motion, defense attorney David Coombs lays out the ways in which the government's own witnesses failed to confirm the prosecution's arguments set forth in opening arguments.

"We're expecting a significant legal victory next week," said Jeff Paterson, project director for the Bradley Manning Support Network. "The Government's incompetent over-prosecution has been a welcome surprise."

Prosecutors spent weeks attempting to portray Manning as a reckless soldier who knew that by passing documents to WikiLeaks he was passing them indirectly to al Qaeda. But they failed on every front in proving their charge. Harvard Law professor and widely cited WikiLeaks scholar Yochai Benkler testified that it wasn't until overblown government rhetoric that WikiLeaks was ever associated with terrorism. At the time of these releases, it was a widely praised, legitimate journalistic outlet and whistle-blowing resource.

"We've now seen the evidence presented by both sides, and it's abundantly clear that the charge of 'aiding the enemy' has no basis. The government should withdraw that charge," said Widney Brown senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International, in a statement released by the human rights organization on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Government's computer fraud charges hinge on the use of a specific program, Wget, to argue that authorized access was exceeded. Coombs explains, "There is not one case-not one-where any court in this country has premised criminal liability on a theory akin to the one the Government is advancing today." Additionally, the Army acknowledges destroying the evidence of the Acceptable Use Policy that Manning allegedly signed.

Regarding the charges that Manning stole Government property, Coombs explains, "The Government in this case did not charge that PFC Manning stole or converted "information" or "copies"; instead it charged that he stole or converted "databases". Such a distinction is not, in any way, a semantic one.... Since the Government has introduced no evidence that PFC Manning stole or converted the databases in question, he must be found not guilty." He adds that the Government should not now be allowed to correct their error at this late hour.

Even if most of these major charges are dismissed, Manning has taken responsibility for providing WikiLeaks with the documents in question. Those lesser charges alone carry a possible 20-year prison sentence; however, Judge Lind will be under no obligation to impose any punishment. This means the upcoming 2-3 weeks of testimony and arguments regarding sentencing are critically important to Manning's future.

The Bradley Manning Support Network is responsible for 100% of Manning's legal fees, as well as international education efforts. Funded by 21,000 individuals, the Support Network has mustered $1.3 million in Manning's defense.