Bradley Manning defense team.

Government witnesses from the State Department have suggested in the sentencing phase of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial that the Department was the victim of a “chilling effect” created as a result of Manning’s decision to provide a cache of US State Embassy cables to WikiLeaks.

The defense objected to testimony about this “chilling effect,” arguing it is “not directly related to or resulting” from Manning’s “misconduct.” Military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, ruled on the objections and found that testimony from Under Secretary of State of Management, Patrick Kennedy, on a “chilling effect” was admissible evidence, but it would be limited in scope. Only evidence from periods directly following the WikiLeaks releases or “subsequent media accounts” on the cables in host countries would be considered.

The reduction of information included by diplomats in reporting from the field as a result of this “chilling effect” was deemed admissible with the same caveat. The belief that if the US does not have the trust of others it cannot get accurate information and if it cannot get accurate information it cannot do complete reporting on countries was deemed admissible. That non-governmental persons, such as businessmen, were no longer willing to talk “fully and frankly” was deemed admissible, again, with the caveat that it be limited in scope to the time immediately after the releases. That there was now less information included in diplomatic cables for “fear of not being protected” was deemed admissible, as it was a direct result of Manning’s act.

However, the judge ruled that testimony from Kennedy on this “chilling effect” being indefinite was inadmissible as it was speculative and not based on “quantifiable data.” That a “chilling effect” had impacted US policymakers and interagency partners was found to be speculative and inadmissible as well.

The judge ruled yesterday that testimony on a “chilling effect” from Michael Kozak of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor was inadmissible. [Kozak led the WikiLeaks Persons at Risk group that relocated individuals allegedly endangered by Manning’s releases to safety.]

According to the judge’s ruling, Kozak had “opined that the accused’s offenses caused, and will continue to cause, a chilling effect on people making them afraid to come forward and foster democracy abroad and human rights concerns is speculative and inadmissible aggravation evidence.” The court would disregard it.

Few specifics were offered in open court by State Department witnesses testifying on this “chilling effect,” but Kennedy did inform the judge that a “relatively small number of people” had expressed feeling this “effect” that they cannot get the “kind of exchanges they had before WikiLeaks.”

I have written quite a bit about Kennedy, the State Department’s allegations of a “chilling effect” and the State Department’s role in Manning’s sentencing. But, it is worth adding some additional context to this suggestion of a “chilling effect,” which was not included in the initial report I published.

As the defense has said, the nature of some of the testimony military prosecutors have tried to present to the judge indicates an attempt to “place many of the ills of the world at Pfc. Manning’s feet.” There are any number of reasons why relations with a country might be suffering now and those reasons are unlikely to involve WikiLeaks if one truly examines what is affecting diplomatic operations. [cont’d.]

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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