Tell Secretary Gates: Drop “Aiding the Enemy” Charges Against Manning

Add your name to our letter urging Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to drop the “aiding the enemy” charges against Bradley Manning.

Both MSNBC and Marc Ambinder are reporting that the government is issuing new charges against Bradley Manning.  Now that the government’s case against Julian Assange is falling apart, the Pentagon is ratcheting up the pressure on Manning by charging him with “aiding the enemy.”

Richard Nixon said the same thing about Daniel Ellsberg:

“Daniel Ellsberg, whatever his intentions, gave aid and comfort to the enemy, and under those circumstances, that is inexcusable. After all, he is putting himself above the president of the United States, above the Congress, above our whole system of government, when he says in effect that he would determine what should be made public.” — Richard Nixon

The government alleged nothing regarding “aiding the enemy” when they originally charged Manning in July of 2010.  Surely they must have new and compelling evidence to substantiate such serious charges.  If not, they’re just bringing the full force of the state down on Manning’s head because he would not give them a false confession against Julian Assange they needed to make their case.

The military has continued to mis-classify Manning’s mental health status, against the advice of three Quantico brig psychiatrists, in order to subject him to solitary confinement-like conditions and still deny they are torturing him. Yesterday Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, posted the Article 138 Complaint that Manning filed on January 19:

Both complaints [filed by Manning and Coombs] requested that I be removed from POI watch and that my classification level be reduced from MAX to MDI. CWO4 Averhart did not respond to either complaint as required by SECNAVINST 1649.9C PP 8301(21)

Based on the foregoing, I believe that the action of holding me under POI watch for over five months and placing me on suicide risk is wrong under Article 138, UCMJ. I do not believe that CWO4 Averhart, as the Brig commander, has the discretion to keep me in confinement under these circumstances.

Who do they think is the “enemy” here that the cables are “aiding?”  From the alleged Manning/Lamo chat logs:

(02:29:04 PM) Manning: i guess im too idealistic
(02:31:02 PM) Manning: i think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything
(02:35:46 PM) Manning: was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the iraqi federal police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees
(02:35:46 PM) Lamo : I’m not here right now
(02:36:27 PM) Manning: everything started slipping after that… i saw things differently

Marcy Wheeler:

All the pop psychology that has been offered to explain why Bradley Manning allegedly leaked to WikiLeaks serves to obscure his own very clear explanation: Manning first “saw things differently” when he was ordered to help our client thug in Iraq crack down on very tame domestic dissent.

Daniel Ellsberg on Manning:

Ellsberg said he frequently hears people praise his 1971 leak of the Pentagon’s secret history of the Vietnam War while condemning the WikiLeaks disclosures. The 79-year-old former military analyst rejected that argument, calling Manning a “brother” who, if he indeed provided the documents to WikiLeaks, committed “a very admirable act.”

The government’s charges against Manning are similar to those that Ellsberg faced from the Nixon administration:

[Ellsberg] and Russo faced charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and other charges including theft and conspiracy, carrying a total maximum sentence of 115 years. Their trial commenced in Los Angeles on January 3, 1973, presided over by U.S. District Judge William Matthew Byrne, Jr….Judge Byrne dismissed all charges against Ellsberg and Russo on May 11, 1973 after the government claimed it had “lost” records of wiretapping against Ellsberg. Byrne ruled: “The totality of the circumstances of this case which I have only briefly sketched offend a sense of justice.”

Ellsberg is extremely critical of  the Obama Administration’s persecution of Manning and Wikileaks:

Ellsberg was sharply critical of President Obama, who he said “has a very personal reason to be concerned” about the exposed information. Ellsberg contended that the documents reveal torture and unnecessary fatalities at the hands of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan — alleged atrocities that Ellsberg says Obama should be investigating.

The Espionage Act may allow some legal room to prosecute Assange, Ellsberg said, but he added that it would be impossible to mount a case without also targeting the New York Times, one of several media outlets around the world that published the leaked documents. The administration, “for political reasons, does not want to take on” one of the nation’s leading newspapers, Ellsberg contended.

“Our Justice Department is searching hard for a law that these acts can be said to have violated,” said Ellsberg, who asserted that Obama has already prosecuted four leakers, more than all other presidents in history combined, which he called an “ominous trend.”

I guess the administration now considers Egyptian and Tunisian students inspired by Wikileaks documents to rise up against corrupt governments to be “the enemy.” As Marcy Wheeler says, our government’s commitment to democracy is questionable.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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