(photo: suemelk)

The Military Public Affairs Office is not permitting the media to remain on base past noon. Therefore, you will have to wait for a report on what the prosecution presented.

Most significant was that the prosecution identified “the enemy” Manning is charged with “aiding.” They played an Al Qaeda propaganda video and said he knowingly passed on information to Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and similar enemies through WikiLeaks.

I intend to post a full report on the prosecution’s closing argument before the day is over.

The Pfc. Bradley Manning Article 32 hearing came to an end this morning as the defense and prosecution presented closing arguments. The defense presented its closing argument first and then the prosecution presented its PowerPoint presentation.

David Coombs approached the podium and began his statement by indicating Investigative Officer Almanza was in a “unique position to provide the US government with something that it needs – a reality check on their case.” He said as a military judge and a member of the Justice Department his recommendation would “carry a lot of weight” and he could make a recommendation that the government has overcharged Manning in an effort to “strong arm” a plea from him.

He then proceeded to outline the charges and specifications indicating that each of them carry a “10 year maximum punishment.” Added together, if Manning was charged with each of these he would face 150 years in prison. But, that wasn’t enough for the government, Coombs added. They also charged Manning with “aiding the enemy,” which would at least mean Manning faces a maximum punishment of life without parole.

Coombs recommended dismissing the “aiding the enemy” charge. He asked for a dismissal of all the Article 92 offenses, because those stem from the information assurance rules and, based on the evidence,  Manning’s unit “did not enforce” a standard; so to charge Manning with violating information assurance rules “smacks in the face of justice.” (Coombs appeared to be referring to charges pertaining to the unauthorized downloading of software to his work computers.)

If these offenses were thrown out, maximum punishment would be 30 years.

Coombs launched into a monologue here saying that number (30 years) could get lost unless you put it into context. Ronald Reagan had just become president. The US was assisting Saddam Hussein in a conflict with Iran. The US was beginning its conflict with Russia in Afghanistan.

“Thirty years ago my client was not even born,” Coombs stated.

Then, he declared: “You will need to consider not only how certain things happened” but also “why things happened.”  And, “only when you consider why something happened and what was the result of that” will you be able to make an appropriate recommendation.

Coombs highlighted Manning’s suffering from gender identity disorder. He said the term is an “unfortunate term” because it is “not a disorder.” “When a person looks in the mirror and they do not feel that the person they are looking at is the gender they are, that’s not a disorder. That’s reality.”

A heart wrenching and profound email to Sgt. Paul Adkins from Manning was read. “This is my problem. I’ve had signs of it for a very long time. I’ve been trying very, very hard to get rid of it.” It is not going away. It is haunting me more and more as I get older. Now the consequences are getting harder. “I am not sure what to do with it. It’s destroying my ties with family. It is preventing me from developing as a person. . . . It’s the cause of my pain and confusion, and it turns the most basic things in my life to be very difficult.”  He said the only help that seems available is severe punishment. “I have a fear of getting caught” and have gone to “great lengths to conceal my disorder.”

The email continued, it is difficult to sleep and impossible to have conversations. It makes “my entire life feel like a bad dream that won’t end. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what will happen to me. But at this point I feel like I am not here anymore. Signed, Bradley Manning.”

“That’s the letter Adkins received and did nothing in response to it,” Coombs said.

Coombs highlighted a journal of Manning’s with a simple entry that included the statement, “I may have gender identity issues.” He discussed several articles Manning downloaded, one of them being “Transexuals in the Military: Flight into Hypermasculinity,” written in 1988 by a captain in the US Air Force. He read an excerpt indicating soldiers would join the service to “become a real man.” And, “I joined the military as a cover. In a uniform, my masculinity would never be questioned.”

His virtual identity—Breanna Manning—was alluded to once more, as Coombs said, “If only life were so simple, that you could press a button and solve your problems.”

“He struggled in isolation but he did not struggle in silence. We have multiple locations where the struggle that he was enduring came to the surface,” Coombs explained. “It is the military’s lack of response to that which also smacks in the face of justice, as NCOs are the backbone of the US Army.”

Citing his fourteen years of service with the military, he said NCOs are to be “enforcers of the standards” and this is one thing that makes the US Army different from any army in the world. Yet, from the highest ranking officer on down to the most junior officer, nothing was done.

Coombs then read off quotes from three memos Adkins wrote on Manning’s “mental instability” and emotional problems. In one of the memos from 2009, he wrote Manning was “salvageable” if he participated in psychiatric therapy, took medication and received treatment. Another memo described finding Manning sitting upright with his knees tucked toward his chin by a folding chair with cut marks. Etched in the seat by a knife were the words, “I want.”

Coombs explained Manning was not in immediate danger of hurting himself. He felt that he was not there, and not a person. He also drew the analogy of his personality being “layers of an onion.”

Again, Adkins did nothing.

“What was the result of these leaks?” Coombs asked. It would be possible to know if the original classification authorities (OCAs) had been in court to testify. They were not. They instead submitted “unsworn statements” indicating “relevant information could cause harm.”

“Why are we considering whether this could cause harm” when it is out in public? It hasn’t caused harm, Coombs said. Why would the OCAs continue to say they could cause harm? Because they are reinforcing the “chicken little response of the US government.”

In the beginning it was [Pentagon spokesperson] Geoff Morrell going around with a Chicken Little response that “the sky is falling, the sky is falling. It was reinforced last week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the sky is falling, the sky is falling.

“The sky is not falling and the sky will not fall,” declared Coombs.

“If the OCAs or Secretary Clinton wish to insist so, let them come in under the penalties of perjury and say so.” He added he would enjoy that cross-examination.

Finally, he concluded with a poetic summation of what has been said of his client. He was young and he was idealistic.

“He was a young man with a strong moral compass. And obviously in your early twenties, you believe you can change the world,” Coombs said. “In your early twenties, you believe you can make a difference and that’s a good thing. In your early twenties, when your president says, ‘Yes We Can,’ you actually believe that.”

Coombs mentioned the government’s overreaction, insisting there is “extreme harm.”  Saying Manning must pay with this life, is “definitely overreacting.”

He concluded, a “hallmark of our democracy is the ability of our government to be open with its public.” He said “sunlight has always been the best disinfectant.”

“History will ultimately judge my client,” Coombs declared. He then read a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. uttered forty-eight years ago: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

Pausing for a moment, Coombs ended, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

He turned away from the podium and went to sit down. The prosecution then approached to begin their closing argument.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."