Judge finds Manning's "whistleblower" claim unpersuasive

When this entire, sordid Bradley Manning affair broke a couple of years ago, I’ll confess that even I didn’t think we’d still be waiting for the opening bell to ring on the Court Martial in January of 2013. Granted, with the mountain of evidence to go through, witnesses to round up, computer gear to autopsy and intelligence resources to filter, the Army was clearly going to take their time to get this right. But I wouldn’t have guessed that it would be December of 2012 before Manning himself even uttered a word before the trial. Of course, the prosecutors could have been ready to begin before now, but Manning’s “defense” team – if you can call it that – tossed out one delay after another to muddy the waters and look for an escape clause.

But at long last it seems that we’re about to get down to business. One of the – hopefully – final cards that Team Manning was trying to play was an attempt to pass the Private off as a “whistleblower” of alleged government crimes. But as with the rest of these bits of ducking and weaving, the judge remained unimpressed.

Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of being behind the largest leak of state secrets in America’s history, has been denied the chance to make a whistleblower defence in his upcoming court martial in which he faces possible life in military custody with no chance of parole.

The judge presiding over Manning’s prosecution by the US government for allegedly transmitting confidential material to WikiLeaks ruled in a pre-trial hearing that Manning will largely be barred from presenting evidence about his motives in leaking the documents and videos. In an earlier hearing, Manning’s lead defence lawyer, David Coombs, had argued that his motive was key to proving that he had no intention to harm US interests or to pass information to the enemy.

While Manning’s apologists will doubtless cry foul yet again over this decision, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. When you’ve already essentially admitted to flushing massive amounts of classified data down the internet crapper, the specific reason as to why you did it really isn’t going to be all that fascinating to the military. There was one aspect of the attempted defense which was particularly jaw dropping, though, even for Manning’s lawyer.

In a limited victory for the defence, Coombs and the defence team will be allowed to talk about the soldier’s motives on two narrow counts: where it can be used to show that he did not know that his leaks would be seen by al-Qaida; and as evidence that he consciously selected certain documents or types of documents in order to ensure they would not harm the US or benefit any foreign nation.

I’m sorry, but did you really say, “consciously selected certain documents or types of documents” to leak? He dumped more than 750,000 files. That’s three quarter of a million. How many files did this guy have access to? And more to the point, how much free time did Manning having on his hands where he could selectively sort through that massive volume of material to pick and choose? That’s not just unlikely… it defies belief entirely.

Also, the entire idea of being a “whistleblower” would rely on precisely such precision in leaking specific evidence regarding some action or series of actions by the government purporting to demonstrate malfeasance. And were that the case, Manning might have a leg to stand on. But he simply dumped every diplomatic cable and war report he could round up into the hands of Julian Assange without any indication that he was being selective. This is a fact which I’m sure will not be lost on the judge, either.