22 New Charges Filed Against Bradley Manning; Update: No death penalty?

posted at 10:12 am on March 3, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

As was predicted in this space on numerous occasions, the United States Army has brought a laundry list of new charges against alleged traitor Pfc. Bradley Manning of Wikileaks fame. And this time they’ve included the big one.

The Army on Wednesday filed 22 new charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of illegally downloading tens of thousands of classified U.S. military and State Department documents that were then publicly released by WikiLeaks, military officials told NBC News.

The most serious of the new charges is “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense that could carry a potential death sentence.

Pentagon and military officials say some of the classified information released by WikiLeaks contained the names of informants and others who had cooperated with U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, endangering their lives.

Earlier this year I engaged in a discussion with Ed Morrissey on his show about the most significant news stories of 2010 and which ones would roll over to play a big role in 2011. This story was my top pick, not just for the potential of more and more high profile revelations from Wikileaks, but for the eventual fate of young Mr. Manning and the political fallout which could come from it.

The “aiding the enemy” charge should come as no surprise to anyone, and in fact we had predicted it would come down to treason last winter. Despite the poo-pooing and endless protestations of some of Manning’s most vocal and frequently comical defenders, there is one object lesson here which can not be repeated often enough: the U.S. Military has zero sense of humor when it comes to things like this.

Assuming for the moment that this winds up in a conviction – and the Army is certainly acting like they’re playing a pretty solid hand at this point – the situation only becomes more explosive and holds the potential to be a huge thorn in the side of the Obama administration for months or years to come. Aiding the enemy during a time of war is generally considered one of the surest paths to a firing squad for obvious reasons, but it will leave the President in a sticky 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.)

Of course, the Army could let Obama off the hook and simply send Manning to Leavenworth for the rest of his natural life, but that’s not a great option either in terms of the political optics. Manning’s cheerleaders are already complaining about the “horrific” conditions he’s being held under and it’s only going to get worse after his conviction. (He might even lose his cable TV, library and newspaper privileges and private exercise yard.)

If convicted on the Big Count, Manning will never, ever be able to be transferred into the general military prison population and will, in all likelihood, spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. Of all the scoundrels in legal history, traitors are probably the most unpopular with the enlisted rank and file. Dumped into a large crowd, Manning’s safety would be virtually impossible to assure. And that would leave the President with a “folk hero” of the Left locked up under the same – or worse – conditions than he’s in now for the rest of his time in office. This would be a burr under Obama’s saddle which would never go away.

It’s been a long and winding road, but it looks like we may be coming to the end of it. The Army moves at their own pace, as they should, but if they’ve filed charges now they probably feel like their case is just about ripe for presentation. Look for a court martial date to be announced in the coming weeks or months.

UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting that prosecutors have taken the death penalty out of play, so that’s one less thing for the White House to worry about.

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.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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gryphon: Then I respectfully request that you avoid labeling things that you don’t deal in.

Scott H on March 3, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Cindy: Er, is that meant to be sarcasm? I certainly hope so.

Scott H on March 3, 2011 at 12:04 PM

In the interest of full disclosure, I have not served. I do have close family members who have, though…gryphon202

Therein lies the rub. I DID serve with II Field Force Vietnam Combat Command in 1969-70. When you see first hand injury or death of your fellow soldiers caused because some malcontent couldn’t keep his mouth shut, yeah, you quickly learn how much you despise traitors. Guess that makes me “bloodthirsty”.

bannedbyhuffpo on March 3, 2011 at 12:06 PM

The other thing in Mr. Manning’s favor is that the leaks from Wikileaks have had zero negative impact on our military or relationships around the world. As a matter of fact they have been a good thing. Or so we are told by the press.

Cindy Munford on March 3, 2011 at 12:03 PM

There are combat tapes of Apaches from the wikileaks where the crewmembers have been identified. They’re posted on the web now.

hawkdriver on March 3, 2011 at 12:07 PM

What a load of crap. We are supposed to believe that a PFC acting on his own, downloaded a ton of top secret intelligence and no internal network red flags were raised, none of his superiors had any knowledge. Just a lone wolf. Give me a break…I don’t know how the talking heads report this with a straight face.

litebrite on March 3, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Scott H on March 3, 2011 at 12:04 PM

I’m not sure which comment you mean but based on my feelings about this thread I would have to say yes.

hawkdriver on March 3, 2011 at 12:07 PM

I saw you comment on that earlier. Trust me, I know those leaks damaged us five ways from Sunday, we are just being lied to. I wonder why? I am beyond annoyed that we are watching the making of our next celebrity prisoner wronged by society.

Cindy Munford on March 3, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Cindy: *nods* Just making sure! The odds that you had made that statement seriously were very small, but I was a bit worried for you, honestly.

Scott H on March 3, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Scott H on March 3, 2011 at 12:15 PM

That’s funny because I thought I was coming off as a pretty nasty b!tch on this one. Thanks for you concern.

Cindy Munford on March 3, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Cindy Munford on March 3, 2011 at 12:12 PM

And I should know better. :-)

hawkdriver on March 3, 2011 at 12:20 PM

That’s funny because I thought I was coming off as a pretty nasty b!tch on this one. Thanks for you concern.

Cindy Munford on March 3, 2011 at 12:17 PM

I didn’t see it that way.

OmahaConservative on March 3, 2011 at 12:28 PM

OmahaConservative on March 3, 2011 at 12:28 PM

Hey, Kiddo! Are you working today? I can’t believe it is both Thursday and March! Who’s stealing my time while I’m wasting it?

Cindy Munford on March 3, 2011 at 12:31 PM

If they’re not gonna execute him, it should be arranged for him to be “shot while attempting escape”.

Iblis on March 3, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Hey, Kiddo! Are you working today? I can’t believe it is both Thursday and March! Who’s stealing my time while I’m wasting it?

Cindy Munford on March 3, 2011 at 12:31 PM

Nope, I called in again.

OmahaConservative on March 3, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Hey Cindy/OC…

Get a room.

BobMbx on March 3, 2011 at 12:53 PM

My prediction is that this won’t roll over and hurt Obama in any way, no matter what he does. His economic policies are what will matter to his base. Manning will be forgotten except for a few protest posters alongside Mumia. I just can’t see Manning being a rallying cry for anyone in 2012 – he’s small fry.

YehuditTX on March 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM

The reason I can actually agree in this case with taking the death penalty off the table is that the method by which Manning got the classified files out of the secure space should never have been available to him in the first place.

The information has consistently been that he took personal CDs into the secure space and purported to play his favorite tunes from them while working on a classified PC. Meanwhile, he was writing thousands of secret reports to those CDs.

The supervisor who was letting Manning into a SCIF with personal CDs needs to see his career ended. So does the horse he/she rode in on. Cryptic communications from DOD have suggested that information security rules have been relaxed somewhat in the last half decade, and that implies there may have been some very, very stupid force-wide decisions that opened the opportunity hole for this.

That doesn’t mitigate Manning’s responsibility for what he did. But he should have had to work a lot harder for it — and if he’d had to, I’m betting he wouldn’t have achieved his goal. What sticks out all over him is lack of perspective, judgment, and follow-through. He couldn’t have done this if the infosec environment had simply been what it should be. He would have done something else, but it wouldn’t have been releasing to professional leakers thousands of documents that identify US field units, coalition tactics, and local-national informants by name.

With the Walker case, we learned some things about infosec that DOD had not previously learned in a systematic fashion. With the Manning case, we knew — have known for years — better than to run a secure workspace in a way that would create the opportunities he had. And yet it was being done anyway.

The reason we have infosec regs at all is because our baseline posture is not to fully trust anyone. We have controls, checks, routine supervision. When that’s not being done as it should be, there is fault with the chain of command. It doesn’t mean Manning didn’t have treason in mind, or that he didn’t commit it, but as a matter of judgment, it is partly the fault of DOD rules and rules enforcement that he was able to achieve the effect he did.

I’d be satisfied with life without possibility of parole for Manning. I won’t be satisfied if the whole DOD doesn’t clean up its infosec act, and slap Manning’s chain of command around in the process.

J.E. Dyer on March 3, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Solitary confinement in Leavenworth is not “a comfy place to live.”

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 11:07 AM

I would assume it would a smite more comfortable than a pine box under 6 feet of dirt, but I can’t really say. I have no experience with either.

But I’ll take your word for it concerning solitaire in Leavenworth.

BobMbx on March 3, 2011 at 12:59 PM

I don’t know if the aiding the enemy charge can stick. I am not familiar with military law, but I would think he would have to give the info to an actual AQ or Taliban operative, not some dorky Swedish guy. Dont get me wrong Manning is no hero to me, (i always made the case he was the real problem not Assange) but I think the Army knows this and thats why they aren’t looking for an execution

snoopicus on March 3, 2011 at 1:18 PM

Guess that makes me “bloodthirsty”.

bannedbyhuffpo on March 3, 2011 at 12:06 PM

In the military, death and destruction is the order of the day. I hope I a least get a little credit for being honest enough to open myself up to ridicule by admitting that I see things differently from my situational bias.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 1:18 PM

He’s a traitor and deserves to be shot.

Psycotte on March 3, 2011 at 1:20 PM

I must admit to being conflicted about capital punishment. As a Christian (admittedly not a very good one), it seems to me that Christ was voicing straightforward opposition to the death penalty when He saved the adulteress from stoning; i.e., the famous ‘Let he who is without sin…’ passage. However, even George Fox, founder of the Quakers and a staunch opponent of the death penalty in almost all instances, supported capital punishment for traitors. Treason committed against a country such as ours, a genuine force for good in the world, is a different class and kind of crime, of a greater level of magnitude, one for which–in my view–there is truly no chance of redemption.

I understood why John Walker Lindh was given a comparatively light sentence. He was a civilian, after all, as well as a fool and a fanatic. Manning’s case is different. Manning took an oath. Manning wore the uniform. That prosecutors took the death penalty off the table in Manning’s case tells us they were at least partly motivated by political considerations and pressure from above. That the American Left views Manning as a hero should tell us all we need to know about the American Left. That President Obama counts these people as his base should tell us all we need to know about our president.

troyriser_gopftw on March 3, 2011 at 1:21 PM

But I’ll take your word for it concerning solitaire in Leavenworth.

BobMbx on March 3, 2011 at 12:59 PM

As I alluded to in an earlier post, solitary confinement is unpleasant by its very nature — at least to the rational. While there are things that can be done to make it somewhat less torturous, it is rarely used in civilian populations, except as punishment of some sort.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 1:22 PM

The reason I can actually agree in this case with taking the death penalty off the table is that the method by which Manning got the classified files out of the secure space should never have been available to him in the first place.

That doesn’t mitigate Manning’s responsibility for what he did.

Either it does or it doesn’t. Which is it?

I won’t be satisfied if the whole DOD doesn’t clean up its infosec act, and slap Manning’s chain of command around in the process.

J.E. Dyer on March 3, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Agreed.

DarkCurrent on March 3, 2011 at 1:22 PM

In the military, death and destruction is the order of the day.

Well, actually, in the military the order of the day is swift and decisive accomplishment of your mission within the confines of your stated Rules of Engagement. If “death and destruction” was a byproduct because the circumstances required kinetic means, it certainly doesn’t mean that is ever the preferred method.

I hope I a least get a little credit for being honest enough to open myself up to ridicule by admitting that I see things differently from my situational bias.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 1:18 PM

I’m not sure why you think you need military creds to argue your point. If you’re anti-capital punishment, just argue your point from your actual base of knowledge.

hawkdriver on March 3, 2011 at 1:29 PM

I’m not sure why you think you need military creds to argue your point. If you’re anti-capital punishment, just argue your point from your actual base of knowledge.

hawkdriver on March 3, 2011 at 1:29 PM

I am not anti-capital punishment. I am as philosphically and politically conservative as they come. I just don’t believe that justice “demands” the death penalty in this case. Believe you me, I wouldn’t have lost any sleep over Manning’s death-by-firing squad, if that’s what it came down to. But neither do I believe that the decision to not seak the death penalty is some sort of tragic miscarriage of justice.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 1:32 PM

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 1:32 PM

I got that from an earlier post. I just find it hard to believe you think the prospect of a day with the executioner is not as effective a deterrent as being put in solitary.

If he even stays in solitary.

hawkdriver on March 3, 2011 at 1:36 PM

But neither do I believe that the decision to not seak the death penalty is some sort of tragic miscarriage of justice.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 1:32 PM

I’ll go with this. +1

Psycotte on March 3, 2011 at 1:37 PM

I must admit to being conflicted about capital punishment. As a Christian (admittedly not a very good one), it seems to me that Christ was voicing straightforward opposition to the death penalty when He saved the adulteress from stoning; i.e., the famous ‘Let he who is without sin…’ passage.

troyriser_gopftw on March 3, 2011 at 1:21 PM

Actually, here is some information about this passage that is often overlooked…

The Pharasees were not properly applying the Law. The Law was VERY clear about adultery…

1) The couple had to be caught in the act (which they were).
2) BOTH, the man and woman were to be stoned.

10 “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Leviticus 20:10

Yet, only the woman was brought before Jesus. It was very clear that they were misapplying the Law on purpose, and hoping to catch Him in a trap. Jesus exposed their sinful natures instead.

This does not mean that the woman was not guilty, just that she was free on a technicality, because she was brought forth unjustly. Jesus then told her to go and sin no more (indicating that she had sinned, and was guilty).

Governments exist to enforce the Law. Individuals, however, should exercise forgiveness in personal dealings. The beatitude of “turn the other cheek” was directed toward individual listeners, not Governments.

It is also interesting that they brought her before Jesus to condemn her, when he was not part of the governing authorities at the time. Since the audience was not an official governing body, the Pharisees should have exercised individual forgiveness, instead of government-executed justice.

dominigan on March 3, 2011 at 1:46 PM

The Fort Hood shooter would be considered a martyr if he were executed after having been found guilty; therefore I think life without parole would be appropriate (especially if he spends that solitary making big rocks into little ones).

But for this wretch if/when he is convicted on these serious charges, execution would be appropriate. He has (if he did do at least as charged) committed treason and imperilled many American military and others; I would be happy to be on the firing squad for the damage he has done to my military and my Country.

Kevin K. on March 3, 2011 at 1:49 PM

But neither do I believe that the decision to not seak the death penalty is some sort of tragic miscarriage of justice.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 1:32 PM

I agree with you, however punishments are simultaneously justice and deterrent. A lifetime in prison is a mild deterrent, compared to a death sentence, and will cost taxpayers for years.

I would have preferred the quicker, cheaper, stronger deterrent to the weak one currently being pursued.

dominigan on March 3, 2011 at 1:51 PM

I suggest dropping him in Libya carrying a rainbow flag and plenty of perfume. He could make friends with some arabs.If that is who he wanted to help.

seven on March 3, 2011 at 3:27 PM

What a load of crap. We are supposed to believe that a PFC acting on his own, downloaded a ton of top secret intelligence and no internal network red flags were raised, none of his superiors had any knowledge. Just a lone wolf. Give me a break…I don’t know how the talking heads report this with a straight face.

litebrite on March 3, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Robert Hanson accomplished this. Aldrich Ames accomplished this. The Walker spy ring – all enlisted – accomplished this.

According to PERSEREC (look them up, litebrite), the profile of today’s successful spy is a conflicted person with divided loyalties, who volunteers to spy and has no clearance at all. This same person is statistically more likely to be successful in acquiring and passing classified matter to an enemy than his or her predecessors.

Compared to the profile, Pfc Manning is overqualified.

So spare us the “load of c***” pontificating.

I regret that we won’t be shooting this traitor. If only we’d shoot a few of these guys, there’d be less of them to worry about.

Cricket624 on March 3, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Has the Ft. Hood shooter been convicted of anything yet?

Fact: 13 dead, 32 wounded
Fact: Scores of eyewitnesses

And still the military can’t seem to get this to trial.

BobMbx on March 3, 2011 at 10:23 AM

Further, the military doesn’t even have the guts to identify the motive for the killing, because, you know, Islam means peace, diversity is strength and little babies come from unicorn farts.

Cricket624 on March 3, 2011 at 3:53 PM

I got that from an earlier post. I just find it hard to believe you think the prospect of a day with the executioner is not as effective a deterrent as being put in solitary.

If he even stays in solitary.

hawkdriver on March 3, 2011 at 1:36 PM

If they put him in solitary as a protective measure, they wouldn’t let him out unless they honestly felt his life was no longer in danger. That is just as true of military prisons as it is in the civilian population.

And I don’t recall saying anythig about solitary being more of a deterrent; I think I’ve made my stance, that it’s not an easy cushy punishment, abundantly clear.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 4:04 PM

I regret that we won’t be shooting this traitor. If only we’d shoot a few of these guys, there’d be less of them to worry about.

Cricket624 on March 3, 2011 at 3:38 PM

And I regret that so many patriots will be losing sleep over what they wrongly see as an unjust outcome to all this.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 4:06 PM

I would have preferred the quicker, cheaper, stronger deterrent to the weak one currently being pursued.

dominigan on March 3, 2011 at 1:51 PM

I’m rather ambivalent on this matter, in case you haven’t already figured it out. One way or another, I believe Manning will be made an example of. It doesn’t necessarily have to result in his death (though I wouldn’t weep a single tear for him if it did).

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 4:08 PM

The chances of him being kept in solitary for the rest of his life are zero to none. They don’t operate prisons that way. And solitary doesn’t mean what most people think it means. They are taken out for exercise and can converse with inmates in cells near them.

Even Florance SuperMax is operated on a behavioral mod system. That means even the worse terrorist can get out of it and into general pop. with less restrictions.

Pollard, who is definitely a traitor, is no longer in a supermax facility.

During the first World Trade Tower bombing, there was expert testimony regarding how these prisons are run. Find it on the internet and read it. These supermax prisons are no substitute for the death penalty (which I am not advocating for Manning since I don’t know all the evidence against him). People who oppose the DP like to argue how these prisons are worse than death. They are not. It’s just more of those who oppose the DP for any reason garbage.

Blake on March 3, 2011 at 4:17 PM

People who oppose the DP like to argue how these prisons are worse than death. They are not. It’s just more of those who oppose the DP for any reason garbage.

Blake on March 3, 2011 at 4:17 PM

It’s a good thing I don’t oppose the death penalty, nor do I think that prisons are worse than death. I simply will not lose any sleep over the brass’ decision to not execute PFC Bradley Manning.

If and when they put Manning back into the general population, they will almost certainly be placing his life at risk. The folks here that would love to see Manning killed in the name of justice (judicially or otherwise) should be tickled pink about that fact.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 4:33 PM

If and when they put Manning back into the general population, they will almost certainly be placing his life at risk.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 4:33 PM

If and when they place Manning into general pop, I sincerely doubt his life will be at risk.

Blake on March 3, 2011 at 4:41 PM

If and when they put Manning back into the general population, they will almost certainly be placing his life at risk.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 4:33 PM

If and when they place Manning into general pop, I sincerely doubt his life will be at risk.

Blake on March 3, 2011 at 4:41 PM

Agreed, in fact he’ll be the most popular guy there. Inmates will be fighting over who bunks with him.

slickwillie2001 on March 3, 2011 at 6:11 PM

If and when they place Manning into general pop, I sincerely doubt his life will be at risk.

Blake on March 3, 2011 at 4:41 PM

Tell that to this post’s author. Apparently I was not the first to bring up this concern.

If convicted on the Big Count, Manning will never, ever be able to be transferred into the general military prison population and will, in all likelihood, spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. Of all the scoundrels in legal history, traitors are probably the most unpopular with the enlisted rank and file. Dumped into a large crowd, Manning’s safety would be virtually impossible to assure. And that would leave the President with a “folk hero” of the Left locked up under the same – or worse – conditions than he’s in now for the rest of his time in office. This would be a burr under Obama’s saddle which would never go away.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 6:15 PM

If they don’t hang the traitor~

Solitary for life… with no computer access… ever.

No Lady Gaga videos… no fisting4fun websites… nothing but deafening electronic silence for his anarchistic treachery.

The best thing would be to shoot the treasonous s.o.b., though.

To remind the next treasonous s.o.b. we’re deadly serious about our security.

profitsbeard on March 3, 2011 at 8:49 PM

Shoot him.

We need an actual DETERRENT to this kind of crap.

I have no idea why Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanson, or John Lindh weren’t given the same sentence either.

SgtSVJones on March 3, 2011 at 9:46 PM

I have no idea why Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanson, or John Lindh weren’t given the same sentence either.

SgtSVJones on March 3, 2011 at 9:46 PM

Ames, Hanson and Lindh weren’t members of our military. Mind you, I think all traitors should be held to the same judicial standards. But then again, solitary confinement ain’t exactly a cakewalk.

gryphon202 on March 3, 2011 at 9:51 PM

WikiLeaks raw US Apache footage

Nearly Nobody on March 3, 2011 at 10:31 PM

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