Defense closes argument, Bradley was humanist whistle-blower: trial report, day 22

Our full page ad as published Thursday, July 25, 2013. Select for full size PDF.

Our full page ad in The New York Times, as published Thursday, July 25, 2013. Select for full size PDF.

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.

Coombs closed, 

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. 

16 thoughts on “Defense closes argument, Bradley was humanist whistle-blower: trial report, day 22

  1. I hope very much that PFC Manning will be found “not guilty”. There are situations in military life which afford counter-reaction. In the trials of Nuremberg exactly this was what was brought against some accused. What PFC Manning did was necessary!

  2. If we don’t care about humans and humanity what are we? Inhumane robotic killers? support truth: support Bradley.
    I hope the next President of US will be elected on an agenda of transparency and justice and will grant Bradley his freedom.

    • Obama was elected in his first term pretty much by the same agenda, anti-war, prosecution of war crimes, closing Guantanamo, more transparency of the government, etc. However, after entering White House, he did the opposite. The only promise he carried out 100% was retreating from Iraq with the ‘help” of the Wikileak.

      • Actually, if I’m remembering correctly, even leaving was based on a date Bush signed in place. Obama tried to negotiate to stay longer but was met with resistance (Bush would have likely argued to stay longer as well). There’ll still be troops and contractors there though as we always have indefinite stays after major conflicts.

      • Well, actually our military is out of Iraq, but we have large numbers of paid mercenary “contractors” in there replacing them. This is much more cost effective because they don’t get veteran benefits when they are injured. We are NOT “out of Iraq”.

        Where are Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction?

  3. Nathan Fuller,

    Thank you so much for your daily account of the court proceedings. For those of us who are far away, and support Bradley in spirit, to have a clearly written and up-to-date description of each session is invaluable.

  4. thank you so much for keeping us posted on Bradley. we are all Bradley Manning. by now most of us have shared a facebook post that exposed the ugly truth of the world situation in one form or another. many of us are in solitary confinement from loved ones in more ways than one. this revolution is/has been amazing. the anarchy that is the internet IS the real democracy. just ask the NSA. peace and love to all !

  5. Personally I do not expect that this judge will support the Nuremberg’s principle that says that all who being under orders commit or condone war crimes and crimes against humanity are guilty and punishable.
    US government is implicated in war crimes and genocide of civilians counting hundreds of thousands killed as shown by SIGS in Iraq and Afganistan. No wonder it wants to do everything to hide their crimes by making disclosures of their crimes unlawful. They will fail. The day of judgement will come like it did for Hitler, Himmler, Karadic, Milosevic and others and the blood of innocents murdered by their unjust wars will speak up like it did in Nurymberg!

  6. The prosecution has alluded to Bradley’s data getting into the hands of Osama but they haven’t presented any proof that Osama did look at said data, which would have been particularly difficult since the real Osama died in 2001 according to many main stream news services at the time. This argument of the prosecution is unfortunately treated seriously when it is actually worthy of social satire.

  7. “Peace will come only when the young refuse to go to war,” said Einstein.

    Wars everywhere are about conquest, control and greed–not “freedom” (whatever that means these days).

    Let Bradley be the last martyr!

    Soldiers everywhere–lay down your weapons! Refuse orders! Strip off uniforms and walk out of the base! You can do this! Wage peace!

  8. I would much preferred nonstop coverage of this trial than the Zimmerman trial. Manning is innocent of wrongdoing — he could have done real damage and disappeared if he were a traitor. If he is convicted, that is what should be protested loud and long more than the Zimmerman matter.

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