2013-07-21 Manning trial: Judge lets govt reopen case for baseless allegation


Contact: Nathan Fuller, 516-578-2628

Manning trial: Judge lets govt reopen case for baseless allegation

In an extremely rare, last-minute move weeks after the government rested its case, military judge Col. Denise Lind allowed prosecutors to expand their rebuttal case, making way for unsupported accusations against Pfc Bradley Manning. The late addition exceeded the usual limits of a simple rebuttal, once again raising supporters' and journalists' suspicions about the validity and fairness of the proceedings.

In a cynical move, the government prosecution recalled Specialist Jihrleah Showman, a former supervisor against whom Manning filed an Equal Opportunity complaint. Following Manning's complaint Showman was admonished for her use of homophobic language in conversation and workplace signage. In the years since, she has vied for media appearances augmented by her own vitriolic tweets attacking Manning as well as his supporters. Now, at the eleventh hour, she claims to recall a conversation with the 25-year-old Army private in which he allegedly shared anti-American opinions.

According to the defense, however, Showman is lending an intentional and inaccurate spin to comments Manning made regarding his refusal to follow any authority blindly as an "automaton" (in Manning's own words) so that they conform to the prosecution's characterization of someone disloyal to the United States.

Meanwhile, no other witness from the prosecution or defense argument has testified that Manning ever shared any anti-American sentiment. In fact, several witnesses have offered just the opposite. Lauren McNamara, with whom Manning chatted socially online, testified that he said her was "concerned about making sure that everyone, soldiers, marines, contractors, even the local nationals, get home to their families".

The alleged comments came during a routine one-on-one professional conference, the sort that superiors are instructed to document. Although Showman provided written documentation for other private conferences in the same time frame - apprising Manning of the unit smoking policy and the possibility of her recommending him for "soldier-of-the-month" - she failed to assign the same importance to these newly revealed comments until after Manning had been arrested on suspicion of sharing classified information with WikiLeaks.

Despite Showman's assertion she passed this hearsay commentary on to her own superior, then-Master Sergeant Paul Adkins, Adkins did not corroborate her version of events when he testified later that afternoon. After numerous sworn statements saying he could not recall Showman reporting such an incident, Adkins did eventually sign one written by his lawyer in June 2011 as part of an appeal his reduction in rank saying she had reported the incident and that he in turn reported it up the chain of command.

In his previous statements, Adkins himself wrote and signed statements that mention no comments from Manning of a disloyal or anti-American nature. Other superiors in Manning's chain, such as Chief Warrant Officer Kyle Balonek, testified he had never heard about this allegation, and that he would expect any incident of this sort to have been documented in writing.

This controversial testimony comes just after a defense motion articulating the prosecution's lack of evidence to support its "aiding the enemy" charge against Manning, and after several witnesses testified that Manning never displayed any anti-American sentiments.

Outraged by this shocking add-on to the prosecution's extensive five-week case - including testimony and cross examination of Showman herself - hundreds of supporters across the world are planning actions on July 27. In Washington DC, supporters will converge at Ft McNair Army base to appeal on Manning's behalf to the court martial convening authority, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan.

While it remains to be seen how much weight Col. Lind will place on this unconventional addition, in the court of public opinion it has largely weakened the prosecution's argument. Showman's latest testimony contradicts that of every other witness in this trial, including her own earlier statements. The proposition that Manning would be so open about his humanist philosophy and patriotism with friends and anonymous online chat-buddies only to confide in a homophobic army supervisor simply doesn't hold water for most listeners.

Showman's performance on the stand ultimately seemed reminiscent of testimony earlier this summer from convicted hacker and government informant Adrian Lamo. In online chats where Manning confesses his actions to Lamo, the latter asks if this might make Manning a sort of spy.

"I couldn't be a spy", replied Manning. "Spies don't post things up for the world to see."

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.