Prosecutors Present Dubious Evidence Calling Bradley Manning’s Loyalty to America Into Question
Military prosecutors in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier on trial for disclosing US government information to WikiLeaks, took their case to a level it had not previously gone: they explicitly questioned Manning’s loyalty to America when he was in the military to suggest that this played some role in his decision to disclose classified information without authorization.
The government had Jihrleah Showman, who served in the military, achieved the specialist rank and was Manning’s supervisor in his unit. Showman was Manning’s “team leader” in April 2009. They would interact daily and, when he drove him places, they would discuss “personal topics.” She also was responsible for counseling him when he acted unprofessionally.
In August 2009, allegedly, she asked him about his motivation for joining the military before deploying in October. He said he joined for “training” and “educational benefits.” She was unsatisfied with this answer because it was an answer every soldier typically gave so she pushed him to consider the question more deeply.
Showman asked him what the flag meant to him and pointed the flag out. She said he responded, the “flag meant nothing to him and he did not consider himself to have allegiance to this country or any people.”
That was all the government put Showman on the stand to say, and the government claimed it was in response to Lauren McNamara’s testimony, where she read statements Manning had made to her when they had chats in 2009 prior to his deployment. It was to raise questions about his motive and that he would not have released information for altruistic reasons as the defense has argued.
The defense objected heavily to Showman taking the stand. She did not memorialize this incident where Manning made a “disloyal” statement. Manning’s defense attorney stated it was “evidence made up by Showman in order to make my client look bad.”
Showman was part of the government’s rebuttal case and Coombs argued Showman was not rebutting McNamara because she had testified about Manning being a humanist and exhibiting care for human life. None of Showman’s testimony would rebut this testimony.
Also, the defense challenged this testimony because it did not come out during the prosecution’s case in the trial.
The judge overruled the defense’s objection, and Showman did take the stand. When it came time for the defense to cross-examine Showman, the defense took a long time exploring her bias against Manning and also the credibility of her story about Manning making a “disloyal” statement.
Coombs told Showman that Manning had said he needed money for college. He wanted to learn more about computers. She had tapped her shoulder with the flag. And Coombs suggested Manning was really saying you cannot have “blind allegiance to the flag” or be an “automaton.” One should have a “duty to all people regardless of their country.”
Showman testified that when she heard what Manning said, “As American and as fellow soldier, I was distraught.” She interpreted it as being “disloyal to America.” However, it was never written up in a counseling form.
Coombs pressed her noting that Manning had a top secret security clearance. He had access to classified information. He was an “all-source analyst.” She was his supervisor. Yet, she did not put it down in writing that he had made “disloyal” remarks.
Had she heard the phrase, “If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen?” Coombs asked. She responded she was sure at one point she had.
Master Sgt. Paul Adkins, according to Showman’s testimony, told Showman “not to write” a counseling statement. It would be “handled by someone else.” Coombs asked if she had ever followed-up on whether it was written. Showman wasn’t sure if Manning’s remarks were ever properly addressed.
Showman also testified she had told Adkins Manning said the “flag meant nothing to him” and he had “no loyalty to this country.” thought Manning was a “possibly a spy.” However, that was also never memorialized in writing.
Asked why she didn’t write up that she thought Manning was a “spy,” Showman contended she “did not have the knowledge,” background or “capability of writing a counseling statement.”
Showman thought Manning was a “spy” because, as she said, “Anyone who is kind of questionable I just kind of feel they should be treated as their actions are questionable.”
She considered being late to formation evidence he was possibly a “spy.” She thought this indicated he “may not be able to handle high stress levels in job of intelligence,” but she was not a doctor so that was just her opinion.
Showman said when she would go to pull him off a “computer task,” he “would appear flustered and not be able to function properly.” This made her think Manning was a “spy” because “it wasn’t normal for someone that should be handling classified information.” This was the feeling she had in her “gut.” It was based off her “having knowledge of what we are to look for with someone who could disseminate information.”
President Barack Obama’s “Insider Threat” program would not have been in place when Showman was in the military in 2009. It was implemented in response to Manning’s disclosures, but what Showman’s testimony suggests is the same things soldiers are to look for as part of the “Insider Threat” program were what soldiers were to look for in their units.
A “Treason 101” course posted on the Department of Agriculture’s website (and highlighted in coverage of the “Insider Threat” program by Jonathan Landay of McClatchy) advises employees, “You are expected to report potentially significant, factual information that comes to your attention and that raises potential security concerns about a co-worker. You are also strongly encouraged to help co-workers who are having personal problems that may become a security issue if the problems are not addressed.”
There are indicators of “illegal, improper, unreliable or suspicious behavior by a co-worker” that employees must look for, such as: “disgruntlement with one’s employer or the US Government strong enough to make the individual desire revenge,” “any statement that, considering who made the statement and under what circumstances, suggests potential conflicting loyalties that may affect handling of classified or other protected information.”
Stress was also something to monitor, and, if a soldier was having trouble handling stress, that was to be considered an indicator that a soldier might pose a risk to national security.
Showman told Coombs she was to watch for soldiers who had “abnormal outbursts,” were “protective” of their time with classified information. She was to look for “little things that would instantly change in someone’s personality when dealing with classified information.”
In the afternoon, MSGT Adkins took the stand for the first time in the court martial and gave testimony about whether “disloyal” remarks were brought to his attention. He could not recall or remember Showman coming to him to address “disloyal” remarks.