Defense closes argument, Bradley was humanist whistle-blower: trial report, day 22
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. July 26, 2013
Defense lawyer David Coombs made his closing argument in Pfc. Bradley Manning’s court martial, portraying the Army private as a humanist who valued all human life, and a whistle-blower who felt the American public needed to see what he saw in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Coombs played the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, asking military judge Col. Denise Lind to watch it in the eyes of a young, naïve, idealistic soldier who couldn’t disregard human life, no matter whose it was. He narrated, “Nine lives were extinguished…did they need to die?”
Reviewing what he called the government’s “child’s logic,” Coombs pointed out several basic inconsistencies in its theories, such as the contention that Manning sought both notoriety and anonymity. He showed how prosecutors cherry-picked Manning’s comments, taking them out of vital context. The government brought up his chat IM with Adrian Lamo, asking,
If you had unprecedented access to classified networks, 14 hours a day, seven days a week, for eight-plus months, what would you do?
But what Manning was clearly getting at comes through in a longer quote:
Hypothetical question: If you had free reign over classified networks over a long period of time, if you saw incredible things, awful things, things that belonged in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, D.C., what would you do?
By excluding Manning’s reference to “incredible things, awful things,” the government tried to paint him as reckless and eager to work for WikiLeaks no matter what the documents exposed. But the full chats, which Coombs urged Judge Lind to reread, reveal Manning the whistle-blower, the humanist who witnessed horrifying things that he knew were being kept secret from his fellow Americans.
The government’s central claim is that Manning “systematically harvested” information for WikiLeaks, acting recklessly and indiscriminately, attempting to obtain and transmit as much information as possible. Coombs rejected that theory and presented another way of looking at it: Manning was actually highly selective, choosing documents he knew would inform the American people without harming sources or fellow soldiers. He could have, for example, downloaded Human Intelligence (HUMINT) reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan databases. Those identified our relied-upon sources, and if Manning had wanted to aid the enemy and harm the United States, he’d have sent those. Instead, he downloaded Significant Activity (SIGACT) reports, historical accounts of past events used to memorialize key incidents and plot out patterns. These give Americans a better understanding of the war in Iraq, provide new details on previously uncounted civilian casualties, and don’t alert the enemy to any information they wouldn’t otherwise have. Prosecutors talked about how the enemy could look at incident reports to see how effective certain weaponry was, or could use Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs to learn how prisoners were captured – but Coombs pointed out that the enemy already knows this information. It isn’t revelatory to anyone in al Qaeda, or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; it’s revelatory to the American public, from whom it’s been needlessly kept.
Coombs showed how the government’s evidence went to a “negligence” argument – that Manning “should have known” that the enemy uses the Internet and therefore would find any information that WikiLeaks posted. Prosecutors used an Army report that says soldiers should “presume” the enemy visits WikiLeaks, and they argue that Manning was trained to assume the enemy would want classified information. But they also conceded that “should have known” is far too low a standard, and only “actual knowledge” is enough to convict him of aiding the enemy.
Coombs reviewed what he established with evidence and both government and defense witnesses, including the fact that Wget was not specifically banned and didn’t provide Manning with any greater access to documents, and that the Collateral Murder video was in David Finkel’s possession and therefore wasn’t closely held by the government.
Is PFC Manning somebody who is a traitor, who has no loyalty to this country, or the flag, and wanted to systematically harvest and download information as much information as possible for his true employer, WikiLeaks?
Is that what the evidence shows or is he a young, naive, good-intentioned soldier who had human life, in his humanist beliefs, center to his decision, whose sole focus was to maybe, I just can make a difference, maybe make a change? Which side of the version is the truth?
Government rebuttal & Judge closes court
Prosecuting attorney Maj. Ashden Fein delivered a rebuttal, largely reiterating the government’s case and reminding the judge of dates the government uses to draw conclusions for the greater charges.
The judge asked if the prosecution was going forward with the theory that Manning released the Farah video and related files in November 2009 instead of April 2010, and Maj. Fein said yes.
Judge Lind then closed the court to deliberate, telling us that she’ll notify the defense and government when she’s reached a final verdict. Then she’ll open the court and let us know that she’ll deliver the ruling the following day. Ft. Meade’s public affairs office will then issue a press release.
The armed guards, who yesterday patrolled the rows of journalists in the media center, returned today and again searched our belongings but didn’t lurk behind reporters monitoring their computer use.