With all the – ahem – other trial related news dominating the headlines, you’re to be forgiven if you didn’t notice that the long awaited court martial of Bradley Manning was drawing to a close as well. We’ve been covering it for you here since the beginning, and it would appear that the end is finally in sight. (For a walk down memory lane with Hot Air, you can catch all of our previous coverage here.) The court martial itself dragged on for nearly a month and a half, with the prosecution putting on a long and meticulous presentation, frequently interrupted by breaks to consider precisely how much could be said in front of who. In that light, it came as something of a surprise when the defense wrapped things up in less than a week and rested.
The defense in the court-martial of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning rested its case Wednesday after just three days and ten witnesses.
The prosecution, by contrast, took five weeks to present its case against Private Manning, as they pursued charges including “aiding the enemy,” which could carry the death penalty, though the prosecution is seeking “only” a life sentence in military custody with no parole.
The real shocker here came, yet again, from lead defense attorney David Coombs, who I’ve written about extensively and sat through a few conference calls with. (And in terms of nothing changing, his closing still has me wondering if Manning won’t have some basis for an appeal based on a lack of competent representation.) One of his final flourishes was to claim Manning’s actions really had nothing to do with terrorists getting hold of classified information. In fact, it was all the government’s fault for making such a big deal of it.
But defense lawyer David Coombs revealed in court that according to testimony that has not yet been made public, it was the government’s own reaction to WikiLeaks that drew the attention of al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden, who was later discovered to have asked to see the WikiLeaks files.
“Rhetoric is what drives the enemy to actually go look at WikiLeaks, not the actual publication of the information,” Coombs said, in an argument against the government’s “aiding the enemy” charge.
Did you catch that? If the government hadn’t complained about WikiLeaks, then al-Qaida never would have found out about it. Never mind that Assange was blasting news of the existence of this information across the international press 24/7 and the media was eating it up with a spoon. Surely that could never have enticed the terrorists to give it a look , eh?
This is a court martial, not a civilian trial, so it’s very possible that we’ll have our final answer in fairly short order. I still don’t see anything which leads me to believe that the Army isn’t going to consider this a case of aiding the enemy during a time of war. (Amnesty International, of course, sees things differently. ) But as noted in the article linked above, the consistent position of the Army has been that they don’t intend to seek the death penalty even if they get a conviction on that count and would rather just lock him up and throw away the key. In the end, there may have been some politics involved in that decision up front, but taking the other route would probably be more of a headache than they’d care to deal with. Either way, we should know soon enough.