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Through Clips From ‘Collateral Murder’ Video, Defense Attempts to Show ‘Truth’ About Bradley Manning

Manning defense lawyer David Coombs. Illustration by Clark Stoeckley.

“The Truth.” That is how the PowerPoint presentation the defense for Pfc. Bradley Manning put together for closing argument started.

The truth is what Manning’s civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, told Manning supporters they would hear tomorrow when he explained why Manning had disclosed certain information to WikiLeaks and how the government was creating its own fictional story to support what they think was done by Bradley Manning.

How can one know that somebody is telling the truth? Coombs said look at “how that person acts or behaves at a time when they don’t think anyone is watching.” This could be done by looking at chats the Manning had with hacker and government informant Adrian Lamo, Lauren McNamara or the person possibly with WikiLeaks, who was using the “pressassociation” account.

For example, he told McNamara in 2009 chats that he could apply what he learned to provide more information to officers and commanders and “hopefully save lives.”  He said he was concerned about “making sure that everybody, soldiers, marines, contractors, even the local nationals, get home to their families.” He said he placed a “value on people first.”

Now, this does not support the offense the prosecutors have charged, that of “aiding the enemy.” It does not support the idea that he was a “traitor.” But, as Coombs argued, this is how Manning truly felt about people when he was deployed.

Lamo testified that Manning thought the information would have an impact on the entire world. Casualty figures in Iraq would be disclosed. If people knew them, they would be alarmed. If people read diplomatic cables, they would be alarmed by what people were saying about other countries. As Coombs put it, they would see, “We act with our self-interest in mind and oftentimes that’s to the exploitation of a third world country.”

Manning was influenced to disclose information by an incident that occurred on Christmas Eve, where civilians got out of the way for a military convoy, and were hit by an explosive and killed. He was concerned about those who died and also concerned that soldiers in his unit only cared that the convoy had avoided being hit but did not really care about the civilians killed.

He was influenced to disclose information when fifteen Iraqis were arrested by the Iraqi federal police for “printing anti-Iraqi literature but really a scholarly critique.” Manning believed they would likely be tortured.

Coombs argued he thought important information needed to get out. He could not “separate himself from others.” He was “connected to everybody.” And he thought “we were all distant family.”

“What a great feeling to have at his age. What a great thing for a young man to feel a duty to everybody regardless of who they are,” Coombs declared. “That is something that is not anti-patriotic. That is not anti-American.”

It was his first deployment. This was the first time Manning was seeing information on the secret government networks. He hoped that things could change based upon the information.

When he was in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, everything was hypothetical. People dying was pretend. But, in Iraq, people were now dying. He could not read the information he was reading in Iraq and be disengaged. Manning was troubled by what he was seeing.

Coombs played three clips from the video of the Apache helicopter attack in 2007 in Baghdad where two Reuters journalists were killed. [cont’d]

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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