Army Private First Class Bradley Manning faces life in prison for releasing hundreds of thousands of government documents to WikiLeaks. On February 28, 2013, he pled guilty to several misdemeanor offences, which could result in up to 20 years in prison. However, the military prosecution continues to pursue several more major charges, such as "Aiding the enemy" and "Espionage," which could result in life in prison.

Last week, 350 journalists applied for media credentials, and there was only space to grant 80. 1000 people gathered outside Ft. Meade's gates on Saturday, without public transportation to assist them. And two nights ago, Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Kucinich debated the issue and Hollywood support for Bradley Manning on Fox.

By the time this case is over, it will be the longest record of trial in US military history. The ruling, whatever it is, will set a precedent that will affect many cases to come. I have been studying the case for two years, and have sat in on many hearings and all of the trial thus far. I'm especially interested in answering factual questions about what has happened in the courtroom, as public transcripts are only being produced for the first time this week, thanks to Freedom of the Press Foundation raising money for stenographers.

Evidence and Proof.

Comments: 209 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

freemarket2740 karma

Can Obama grant a presidential pardon to someone convicted in military court?

iStandWithBrad71 karma


AnxiousPolitics27 karma

What's Bradley's defense?
Have they discussed whether anyone has died because of the release of classified information?
Has there been any discussion about the benefits of releasing information like the public knowing about those journalists?

iStandWithBrad44 karma

Bradley's defense attorney is arguing that at the time Bradley selected documents for release, he was focusing on what he hoped the public could gain from them. He is also arguing that Bradley thought he was being selective in what documents he chose, and that he knew they didn't mention sources by name. From the transcript of the defense's opening argument:

"At the time that PFC Manning selected this information that he believes he was selective. He had access to literally hundred of millions of documents as an all-source analyst, and these were the documents he released. And he released these documents because he was hoping to make the world a better place. He was 22 years old. He was young. He was a little naive in believing that the information that he selected could actually make a difference. But he was good intentioned in that he was selecting information that he hoped would make a difference.

He wasn't selecting information because it was wanted by WikiLeaks. He wasn't selecting information because of some 2009 most wanted list. He was selecting information because he believed that this information needed to be public. At the time that he released the information he was concentrating on what the American public would think about that information, not whether or not the enemy would get access to it, and he had absolutely no actual knowledge of whether the enemy would gain access to it. Young, naive, but good intentioned."

To address your second question, they have not yet discussed whether or not anyone has died because of the release of classified information. The court has ruled in favor of the prosecution that for purposes of finding PFC Manning guilty or innocent of the charge of "Aiding the enemy" it is unnecessary to show whether any damage was done to the national security of the U.S., because PFC Manning would not necessarily have known that at the time of his actions. However, this is likely to be discussed during the sentencing phase of the trial, after convictions.

To address your third question, there also has not been discussion of benefits to journalists from releasing the information. This also is more likely to be discussed during the sentencing portion of the trial, after he is found innocent or guilty of the remaining charges. We expect the sentencing portion to begin in 4-6 weeks.

AnxiousPolitics13 karma

Thank you.
At a more personal level, since you're sitting in, what strikes you most about what's happened so far? A general mood that Bradley screwed himself, or that this is a tragic mistake a young soldier made?

iStandWithBrad38 karma

Well, I can't say there is a general mood, since I'm sure the defense and prosecution feel very differently about this case. Journalistic coverage from the media room has been across the board, but many people still consider this a case which carries a lot of political importance.

The Washington Post sent out an article this week about how many members of the public attending the trial wear "Truth" t-shirts to show their support for PFC Manning's actions, although on the first day the military required them to turn them inside out, which MPs (military police) said related to concerns about propaganda.

The defense also issued a statement on Sunday thanking supporters and activists for their work, so they are not exactly shunning those who support what Manning did.

PFC Manning is very likely to get several years in prison at this point, but after three years in prison his attorney has indicated that he is happy his trial is starting, so I'd say the defense is still maintaining some hope that Manning will not receive a maximum sentence.

Maybe what has struck me the most personally is when the military prosecution showed a slide in part of their argument this week, that had been part of a powerpoint presentation used to train young Army intelligence analysts. In it, the Army trainer identified the Iraq War as a major terrorist recruitment tool. When you consider that the Army itself recognizes the Iraq War as a terrorist recruitment tool, and that Manning allegedly was trying to start a debate about the Iraq War, and is now being charged with "Aiding the enemy" himself, there are some layers of complexity and irony in this case.

worshipthis13 karma

his attorney has indicated that he is happy his trial is starting,

After a few years in solitary, being at a trial -- even your own -- might feel like a fucking birthday party.

iStandWithBrad2 karma

He spent eleven months in solitary. The rest of his confinement has been in medium security at Ft. Leavenworth, which is likely where he'll continue to be imprisoned after sentencing. Part of the defense's argument for why Manning didn't need to be in solitary to begin with related to the fact that as soon as he was transferred to a prison that met 100% of American Correctional Association standards in April of 2011 he was found to be a low-risk prisoner and put in medium security.

stephenliss22 karma

If I were a US Army soldier and I sent a Victoria's Secret catalog to Osama Bin Laden, would that count as "aiding the enemy"? What sort of information has to be provided for it to be an offense? Any information? Or something more specific and damaging to the USA?

iStandWithBrad25 karma

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, "Aiding the enemy" will be charged under the following circumstances:

“Any person who—

(1) aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things; or

(2) without proper authority, knowingly harbors or protects or gives intelligence to or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly; shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.”

PFC Manning is being charged under the second clause, where it says "indirectly". From the way the law is written, I would say sending a Victoria's Secret catalog to Bin Laden counts as direct communication, and the answer to your question depends on whether you had authority to send the catalog, or to communicate with Bin Laden in any other way. It sounds like you could be charged with "Aiding the enemy" for any unauthorized communication.

thrilldigger7 karma

Is the term 'knowingly' being brought up in the court room? I'm not sure of the differences in military court and criminal court, or to what extent criminal court tradition and statues might influence a military court, but the term 'knowingly' has an important connotation in law (see: Model Penal Code).

Has there been any discussion of issues enforcing the second clause? It seems that it would be possible for any member of the military to violate that simply by talking on a cell phone, sending mail, etc. (since it's possible that the information could be intercepted and communicated indirectly to 'the enemy')

iStandWithBrad10 karma

Yes, the prosecution is being required to prove that Manning knowingly gave intelligence information to the enemy. So that is why the Defense is focusing much of its argument on the mindset and knowledge of Manning at the time of releases.

I'm unsure exactly what you mean by the second part, but I do not think the constitutionality of the use of "indirectly" in the second clause has been challenged at this point. I do believe we'll hear more from both the defense and prosecution in this case about how they each feel it should be interpreted, though.

Perfect_Fit5 karma

but that leads to the obvious question "Who is the 'enemy'?" Is it the American people, since that is who Bradly wanted to get this information to!

Does that mean our military considers the American people the "Enemy"?

iStandWithBrad13 karma

The government prosecution is arguing that by the enemy in this case, they mean al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. Or at least, that's the only specific enemy they have named in court. The are arguing that since al Qaeda can use the internet, releasing sensitive information onto the internet qualifies as aiding the enemy.

Lord_Osis_B_Havior-1 karma

Note that AQAP is a different group to bin Ladin's AQ.

iStandWithBrad19 karma

I was only conveying what has been said in the courtroom.

whyyshrekispiss13 karma


iStandWithBrad9 karma

I don't see how Manning could have released information to the American public with the "enemy" also getting access to it, essentially making it impossible to be a whistle blower.

Well, that's certainly a concern for many "progressive" law experts and activists following this case, as well as the editorial board of the LA Times, and a few other major papers who've criticized the military's legal argument with regards to "Aiding the enemy."

YouthInRevolt12 karma

Thanks for doing this, great job to everyone so far at FotPF for the work they've done.

Question: is the prosecution still arguing that Manning "aided the enemy", and have they made any statements that would lead you to believe that they feel the NY Times & others are guilty of the same thing?

iStandWithBrad7 karma

Yes, the prosecution's largest charge against Manning is still "Aiding the enemy."

"Aiding the enemy" is a military charge, and not something that civilians like those who work for the New York Times can face. However, the prosecution has stated in court that Manning also would have been guilty of "Aiding the enemy" if he'd given documents to the New York Times, something this Huffington Post article goes into more detail on.

Sopi6199 karma

Why do you think this had been out of the media spotlight? And is capital punishment still on the table?

iStandWithBrad13 karma

Well, the absence of public transcripts up to this point, as well as the fact that court filings have not been made immediately public, all makes the story more difficult to cover. The Center for Constitutional Rights, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian are among plaintiffs in a lawsuit to try and change this.

Additionally, media is required to enter Ft. Meade at 7:30am, and wait until 9:30am for court to start. Ft. Meade is not accessible by public transportation or terribly near a major city, so covering the case is an all-day affair, and most journalists have other issues to cover as well.

All that being said, I think we've seen a major increase in the amount of coverage of this case over the past few months. Pretty much every major US outlet now sends at least 1 reporter to the "most important" days in court, and a search on google news for "Bradley Manning" yesterday revealed over 1000 articles posted over the past few days.

chbailey4420138 karma

Don't have a question really, but obviously from your username you are a Manning supporter. Although there is no direct proof that his leaks caused American deaths, I feel that his actions were reprehensible. He was trained to guard classified information. Instead he felt that his judgement was all that mattered and he downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents, many of which did in fact fall into enemy hands. It is hard to know what effect this information had on enemy strategy up to and including possible attacks on American troops. In fact, many of the documents were found in Osama bin Laden's possession at his death:

" Last week, Manning's lawyers said they had reached a deal that may eliminate the need for testimony from a member of the military team that killed Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden. Prosecutors also agreed to accept Manning's guilty plea to a lesser version of one of the counts. Under the agreement, the prosecution and defense teams would acknowledge evidence at the trial that indicated bin Laden saw some of the material Manning released. The raid team member, presumably a Navy SEAL, was expected to testify that the evidence was recovered during the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden inside his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan"


Although he may have disagreed with the path of the war, his actions most likely placed our troops in jeopardy and I personally hope he is convicted on all charges, including aiding the enemy.

iStandWithBrad8 karma

It is hard to know what effect this information had on enemy strategy up to and including possible attacks on American troops.

This is likely to be discussed and debated in some detail during the sentencing phase of the trial, which is scheduled to begin in 4-6 weeks.

In fact, many of the documents were found in Osama bin Laden's possession at his death

That is true. However, at this point, during the merits portion of the trial, it's not being debated whether the enemy ever obtained the information, or whether the enemy ever used the information. As far as convictions are concerned, the focus is on the accused's state of mind at the time of acting.

chbailey4420131 karma

Whereas I don't think he directly said "I'm going to give information straight to Osama", he was trained to guard information and know of it's possible use to enemy combatants. Hell even I, as someone who has never served in the military, knows that much of the information he leaked could be used as propaganda by al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. This boy was trained on the importance of operational security and yet he felt that his judgement took priority. Now I'm not saying that every single document he leaked was important, or used by the enemy, or even should have been classified. But out of hundreds of thousands of documents, he had to have been at least aware that some of the information could be used by the enemy for, at least minimally, propaganda and enlistment purposes.

iStandWithBrad4 karma

I believe the trial will be trying to decide those very questions.

TripsB138 karma

What was on all the documents?

iStandWithBrad14 karma

Hah. I don't know how well I can summarize this for you in one reddit post. I'm sure an entire book (or many, even) could be written on this topic.

Generally speaking, the Iraq and Afghan War Logs were records of all significant incidents that had happened in these countries, such as roadside bombings, deaths and injury of Americans soldiers, civilian deaths, reports of in-country torture by the Iraqi Federal Police or others, etc.

The US Diplomatic Cables consisted of all correspondence between US embassies around the world and the State Department. They discussed ambassadors relationships with foreign officials, records of human rights violations, recommendations on policy, etc.

There was also an Apache helicopter video and a Garani airstrike video, which showed killing of civilians.

So that is a summary of the material. As far as specifics, and why this would be relevant to journalists, here is a recent article in Slate with 10 things that author considers most significant.

aon_m7 karma

As a journalist (and gven your reddit name) are you reporting objectively?

One could (fairly) assume that you are reporting from the perspective that he is not guilty.

What say you?

iStandWithBrad12 karma

He has pled guilty to several lesser charges related to mishandling classified information himself, so whether or not he is guilty isn't really an issue at this point.

I would argue that no journalist truly reports from a purely objective standpoint, because journalists are people, and no human is capable of being completely objective at all times.

I report on the issues that I think are important, and analyze them as I feel they should be analyzed.

aon_m2 karma

Thanks for the response, much appreciated.

I approached the AMA from the POV that your user name suggests that you are strongly favoring the defendants camp.

iStandWithBrad13 karma

I believe that overclassification of U.S. government documents has become a very real problem during the War on Terror. Reuters even filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain the video of the Apache gunship (which was later released via WL), and was essentially ignored by the Defense Department.

And I agree with the LA Times editorial board that a conviction of "Aiding the enemy," could damage American journalism, which a congressional panel in December of 2010 established regularly relies upon leaks of classified information in their reporting on foreign policy matters.

However, my aim with this AMA is to answer questions as factually as I can, because this is an incredibly complicated legal case and a lot of people will read a headline or two articles and think they know everything they should know about this case, when the reality is often more nuanced.

A lot of articles have been written with a "Is Manning a hero or a traitor?" framework and I would suggest that that is an oversimplification of the issues that matter here.

Midwestagate6 karma

Can you tell us some of the best links to find the info that Manning leaked?

iStandWithBrad8 karma

The WikiLeaks website is still active, so you can go there if you want to get the information directly. It was also republished on the sites of the UK Guardian and New York Times.

MasFabulsoDelMundo4 karma

In Bradley Manning's statement of defense, released several months ago, he described some relationship difficulties with his boyfriend. Has either side entered any homosexuality argument?

iStandWithBrad8 karma

Could you further clarify what you mean by "homosexuality argument"?

CreepyOctopus4 karma

Much as I hate to be that guy, do you have additional proof? Not only it doesn't show that you have anything to do with the case (and not just your organization), I find the email shown to be strange. In particular, the case being named as "U.S. Government vs. Pfc. Bradley E. Manning", while actually it is "United States v. Bradley Manning". It is customary for cases to have "United States" there, not "U.S. Government", and case names also conventionally denote "versus" with "v." and not "vs" for at least a couple of decades. Of course those could be genuine mistakes by the email's author.

iStandWithBrad3 karma

This is the e-mail that was sent out to 80 organizations by the Military District of Washington. I am not interested in providing my e-mail address publicly here, and reporters attending the trial are prohibited from taking photos on base, unless they are credentialed media photographers. If you have other suggestions for proof, please let me know.

CreepyOctopus1 karma

Did you by chance get to keep some temp pass from Fort Meade?

iStandWithBrad2 karma

Nothing with much identifying information on it. However, a coworker accidentally walked out with this, which we plan to return.

TheInundation3 karma

I don't know a lot about this case. Did the secrets he told in any way jeopardize the lives of American soldiers?

iStandWithBrad12 karma

We have not seen evidence so far that anyone was killed, and part of the defense's argument is that PFC Manning had reason to believe lives would not be jeopardized. However, I expect whether or not lives were jeopardized to be a major issue argued more extensively in the sentencing phase of the trial that will begin in 4-6 weeks.

9483 karma


iStandWithBrad8 karma

There has never been a case quite like this one in the history of the US military courts, so I think it would be very difficult for anyone to provide an "educated" guess at this juncture.

karmanaut2 karma

I don't think this email counts as proof that you were there, because it seems to have gone out to a lot of people; it just says that your organization was given one press pass, and not that you were the one to get the press pass.

iStandWithBrad3 karma

The Army does not allow anyone to take a photo of the media room or the courtroom, so I'm unsure what proof would be better in this case.

karmanaut0 karma

How about a photo of your pass?

iStandWithBrad10 karma

Well, I normally would not have that at my disposal in a place where I'd be allowed to take a photo of it. However, as it happens, a fellow journalist I'm hanging out with today accidentally walked out with one.

karmanaut-1 karma

Thank you for providing additional proof. Your AMA has been reapproved.

iStandWithBrad6 karma

Now it looks like it's no longer listed in the "new section." How is anyone to see the post in order to ask questions?

wonkabusses2 karma

Is David Coombs overwhelmed or is he getting plenty of support? How does his deameanor strike you these days?

iStandWithBrad7 karma

Well, both parties in this case are dealing with what could easily be an overwhelming amount of evidence. However, both the prosecution and the defense team are made up of multiple people (although the prosecution has about 2-3 many times as people as the defense, due to financial considerations). My personal reading of Mr. Coombs vs. the lead prosecuting attorney, however, Major Ashden Fein, is that Coombs seems much more relaxed than Fein, whose entire career is probably resting on this case.

AuJaDe2 karma

To the OP:

First off, thank you! You're doing a wonderful job.

Now, here's a question: Is it, in your opinion, logical to take a stance that the both Brad and the government should be punished? I ask this because my personal view is that, because he was a Soldier, he should not have done what he did and the way that he did it, but the government should be punished for what was revealed and the fact that they hold documents for so damn long.

I'm interested in your views because of the fact I will admit to not knowing not much more than the bare basics of the case.

Again, thank you!

iStandWithBrad2 karma

I guess that depends on what level you mean "logical." Manning broke some military laws, and the US military has broken some international laws (in addition to a failure to respond to the FOIA request filed by Reuters for the Apache gunship video). So if laws are what you are focusing on, then yes, you could say they both acted illegally.

However, when you take a step back and ask, what is the purpose of law? It's to give order to society. And when you ask, what is the purpose of criminal court? It's largely to set precedents that will make society as a whole safer. Manning has plead guilty to several misdemeanors related to mishandling of classified information. He is likely to receive several years or more of prison sentence at this time, and the prosecution has stated that he'd be charged the same way if he leaked to the New York Times. The legal argument the government is using, many experts have said, would apply even if he'd only leaked one document, instead of many. So given all that, the result of this case is likely to discourage future leaking. Some people might say that's a good thing, others say it will discourage whistleblowing, meaning the public may be less likely to learn about misdeeds in the first place.

ilovegeorgebush1 karma

Who ordered the code red?

iStandWithBrad-1 karma


TotallyNotHitler1 karma

Was your chair comfy?

iStandWithBrad4 karma

Not while I was in the courtroom. The media room, however, is a different story. You're even allowed food and coffee, although you can't leave the building without an escort.

freemarket271 karma

Are the judges able to take politics and elite public opinion into consideration when reaching a verdict and imposing a sentence? I am thinking just about everyone who supports Obama wants Manning to be released or get time served.

iStandWithBrad4 karma

The judges are not officially allowed to take politics and public opinion into account. Their job is to execute the law as it has been written and established by past court cases. However, there is a convening authority who must approve the sentence at the end of the trial. And President Obama has executive privilege to pardon those who are convicted. So it's quite possible for public opinion to influence this case, but it is not supposed to happen directly through the judge.

ImNotVenom1 karma

Do you think that if the government catch Julian Assange the will give him execution

iStandWithBrad12 karma

I think execution is unlikely. However, we did hear evidence in court this week of how the US government is obviously preparing a case against WikiLeaks and Assange. Specifically, one of the forensics experts called in to analyze Manning's hard drive answered affirmatively when asked whether he had been instructed to look for evidence that would implicate Julian Assange.

SnoopLionsCub1 karma

How do the chances of him avoiding the maximum penalty look?

Also, thank you for the important work you are doing. Keep up the fight!

iStandWithBrad1 karma

In about 4-6 weeks we will know whether he is convicted of "Aiding the enemy." If not, I think there's a good chance of him avoiding the maximum penalty. If he is convicted, well, that may be a bad sign. Regardless though, sentencing is still up to the discretion of the judge, so we may not know until the end of the trial.

Offtheheazy1 karma

The secretary of defense and CIA director have leaked many secret/top secret information. Why is no one chasing and trying to prosecute them?

iStandWithBrad1 karma

I would guess they have closer relationships with those who have the power to mount charges on behalf of the United States, than does a low level intelligence analyst. Also, when they leak information it's often strategically intended to improve the image of the U.S. or their department, which might not be viewed as "Aiding the enemy" under our government's current definition of National Security.

The evolution of the concept of National Security is actually pretty interesting, in which a nation's political and economic power is included. You can read about it here.

Offtheheazy1 karma

I suppose that at the very top levels, everything is carefully planed out and as you said, information is sometimes leaked on purpose. I do hope that this is the case.

Would this also bring up the case as to. Wether or not we have two different systems of justice in the United States: one for the regular common folk and another for the wealthy elite.

iStandWithBrad1 karma

Would this also bring up the case as to. Wether or not we have two different systems of justice in the United States: one for the regular common folk and another for the wealthy elite.

Award-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald actually recently published a book on this subject, titled With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.

Caneiac1 karma

Why isn't he being accused of treason?

iStandWithBrad1 karma

The "Aiding the enemy" charge that he faces is about as close as you can get to treason under U.S. law.

Caneiac1 karma

I know I'm just wondering, why not use it since it's the only law/crime outlined in the constitution?

iStandWithBrad1 karma

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Well, I'm not sure treason is practiced as an actual law under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. However, I think it would probably be harder to convict PFC Manning of that then the things he's currently being charged with. That is, the burden of proof would be higher.

bigexplosion1 karma

will the results of this case affect the case of Julian Assange?

iStandWithBrad3 karma

A large part of the prosecution's argument as revealed in their opening statement on Monday is that Manning was not acting of his own volition, but that he was in a sense "working for WikiLeaks," by receiving advice from Julian Assange about the value of certain material, and looking at a WikiLeaks "most wanted list" which had been published online when choosing which material to download. The defense is arguing that he was self-directed and that the "most wanted list" did not influence his releases. If the prosecution is successful in their argument, I think that would likely set the groundwork for a conspiracy charge against Assange.

Draki1903-4 karma

Honestly, straight up and with no 'I don't know' or 'It depends' or other evasive manouvers - how do you estimate chances he will walk?

iStandWithBrad6 karma

By "walk" do you mean be sentenced to zero prison time? Considering he's pleaded guilty to several misdemeanors, I think that's unlikely. However, sentencing is totally up to the judge's discretion, and what she thinks will be best for good order and discipline in the Army.

jaguardude1 karma

sentenced to time already served?

iStandWithBrad1 karma

I think it's unlikely, but again, it's really very hard to predict the judge's mind until she makes her ruling.

MedicPigBabySaver-11 karma

  • Is there a good reason he should not be executed for Treason?

iStandWithBrad7 karma

The government prosecution has chosen not to pursue execution as a possible sentence, so that question is void at this point.