The US Army on Wednesday brought 22 new charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking classified military and government documents to whistleblower web site WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested in May 2010 for transferring classified data onto his personal computer and disclosing classified information concerning the national defense.
The new charges include one count of “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense that is punishable by execution, although Manning’s prosecutors have said they will likely seek life imprisonment without parole rather than the death penalty. Manning previously faced 52 years in prison.
“The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Manning is accused of committing,” said Capt. John Haberland, legal spokesman for the Military District of Washington. The Army did not specify who it meant by “the enemy.”
According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a defendant who is convicted of “aiding the enemy” must have knowingly harbored or communicated with the enemy “either directly or indirectly.” Jon Shelburne, the clinic defense coordinator at the Roger Williams School of Law, said prosecutors might have difficulty showing what particular benefits any US enemies gained from the documents.
“The third element of the charges is the biggest problem. Is any information in this area that was made public … visible to the enemy?” Shelburne said during a teleconference Thursday with the Bradley Manning Advocacy Fund. “I don’t know how they are going to show that.”
Also speaking during the call was Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who, in 1971, released classified Pentagon documents detailing US political and military involvement in Vietnam.
“Our enemy is generally al Qaeda, and they want these wars to continue,” Ellsberg said. “The people who give comfort to the enemy are the people who sent troops there and are keeping the cost of the war from the people. Bradley Manning is acting in the interest of the United States and against the interest of our enemy al Qaeda.”
“There’s a campaign here against whistleblowing that’s actually unprecedented in legal terms,” Ellsberg said.
Manning is expected to remain in solitary confinement under a prevention of injury (POI) order until his court martial hearings begin. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has previously said that the order goes against the recommendations of mental health professionals and is “unduly harsh or punitive in nature.”
“There was a point at which he was almost catatonic in nature,” said David House, a friend of Manning’s who visited Quantico in January. House said the conditions reflect that the “US government wants him to crack ahead of his trial.”
The Pentagon called the allegations of mistreatment “blatantly false.”
The Quantico Marine Corps base released a statement outlining Manning’s treatment, including that he is “allowed to converse with other detainees as long as the conversation does not interfere with good order and discipline” and that he is “issued adequate bedding.”
“The notion that the Marines posted at Quantico’s brig are anything but professional is absurd,” the statement said. “Not only are they responsible and accountable for the detainee’s security, they are also responsible and accountable for the detainee’s safety … A maximum custody detainee is able to receive the same privileges that a detainee classified as general population may receive.”
Shelburne agreed that Manning’s treatment does not differ from that of the other Quantico prisoners awaiting court martial, but House and Coombs both denied that the Marine’s description matched the reality of Manning’s conditions.