22 New Charges Against Pfc. Manning, Still No Connection To Wikileaks
Late yesterday, the Army filed 22 additional charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning, including one that could lead to the death penalty:
WASHINGTON — The Army announced 22 additional charges on Wednesday against Pfc. Bradley Manning, the military intelligence analyst who is accused of leaking a trove of government files to WikiLeaks a year ago.
The new charges included “aiding the enemy”; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it was accessible to the enemy; multiple counts of theft of public records, transmitting defense information and computer fraud. If he is convicted, Private Manning could be sentenced to life in prison.
“The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Private First Class Manning is accused of committing,” said Capt. John Haberland, an Army spokesman.
The charges provide new details about when prosecutors believe that Private Manning downloaded copies of particular files from a classified computer system in Iraq. For example, the charges say he copied a database of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables between March 28 and May 4, 2010.
The charges also accuse Private Manning of twice “adding unauthorized software” to the secret computer system — once between February and early April 2010, and again on May 4. A press release accompanying the charges said the software was used “to extract classified information” from the system.
Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School, noted that several of the charges seemed to be describing the same basic act, but in different ways. He said that it was “typical for military prosecutors to draft charges in as many ways as possible,” and he predicted that the defense would challenge the redundancies later in the process.
“We’re potentially entering a new chapter with this set of charges,” Mr. Fidell said.
Several of the charges were predicated on the notion that various sets of files were worth more than $1,000. The charge sheet did not explain how the government had determined the value of the copied files, but it cited a federal statute that has a higher penalty when property worth at least $1,000 is involved.
The charge sheet also did not identify “the enemy” that Private Manning was accused of aiding. A military statement says that charge can be a capital offense, but the prosecution team had decided against recommending the death penalty in this case.
Despite that recommendation, though, the ultimate decision on Manning’s sentence remains with the ;residing military judge, who could accept or reject the recommendation Additionally, as Jazz Shaw notes, a death sentence for Manning could put President Obama in a difficult political position:
If the military decides to drag Manning out back and shoot him – a distinct possibility – a significant portion of Barack Obama’s base will be in an uproar. They tend to be opposed to the death penalty in general, for starters. But Manning has also become something of a folk hero on the Left, allegedly helping – albeit indirectly – Julian Assange to “stick it to the man” and expose the various perceived evils of the American government. Allowing him to be executed would be a huge black eye for Obama with his base.
But if he steps in and commutes the sentence – assuming there is a legal mechanism for him to do so – then he will be seen as undercutting his own military establishment and substituting his judgment for their established practices and discipline. (Not to mention earning the tag of “going soft on traitors,” always a sure winner in an election year.)
Personally, though, I don’t think it would be that difficult a position for the President. The number of people complaining about Manning’s treatment can basically be whittled down to the Glenn Greenwald segment of the President’s progressive base, and many of them don’t seem to understand that Manning’s rights as a military prisoner being prosecuted under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice are distinctly different from the rights he would be entitled to as a civilian defendant in a civilian court. Additionally, many of them don’t seem to think that he did anything wrong even if the charges against him are true. I dare to say that they do not represent a majority of the Democratic Party, and certainly not a majority of the country. If Bradley Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, then I doubt many Americans are going to care what happens to him.
There’s one fact buried in the new charges that I’ve only seen reported in the MSNBC story on them, though:
Pentagon and military officials also report that investigators have made no direct link between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
This has been the case for months, despite digging by federal investigators in all directions, and it makes the probability that any charges will ever be sustained against Wikileaks, Julian Assange, or any related individuals, seem very remote indeed.