Pfc. Bradley Manning – who was recently charged with aiding the enemy – stands accused of leaking thousands of classified documents that ultimately ended up on WikiLeaks.
If found guilty, the former army intelligence analyst will likely spend the rest of his life in a military prison without the chance of parole.
A total of 22 charges have been leveled against Manning including: wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet; theft of public property or records; transmitting defense information; and fraud and related activity in connection with computers.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, defense attorney David Coombs is seeking to dismiss or at least reduce some of the charges at a pre-trial hearing slated to kick off this week.
Indeed, according to Coombs, the government has multiplied the charges against Manning by deliberately treating single violations as multiple offenses.
“This creative drafting by the Government drastically exaggerates PFC Manning’s criminality and unreasonably increases his punitive exposure,” Coombs wrote in a series of legal documents posted on his blog.
Coombs also disputed accusations that Manning intended to aid the enemy (Article 104), citing a clear lack of evidence for the serious charge. ”Every court interpreting Article 104(2) has held that the Government must prove general criminal intent to give intelligence to, or communicate with, the enemy,” Coombs explained.
“No prosecution under this Article has ever been maintained without some allegation of mens rea [i.e. criminal intent]. Mere dissemination of information to persons unauthorized to receive it is insufficient without the necessary criminal intent.”
The defense attorney also emphasized that the US Army has yet to accuse PFC Manning of intending to provide intelligence or communicate with the enemy in making the alleged disclosure to WikiLeaks.
“Rather, the Government has merely alleged that PFC Manning had knowledge that the information, if ultimately published, might be accessible to the enemy and that such information might help the enemy. Such a feeble mens rea allegation is patently insufficient to establish the requisite intent under Article 104.
“PFC Manning expressly disclaimed any intent to help any enemy of the United States in the chat logs in which he discussed his actions. Far from intending to aid any enemy of the United States, PFC Manning’s actions and statements illustrate a conscious rejection of any such ill motive,” he added.
It should be noted that a number of analysts and journalists have questioned whether or not the Pentagon can provide Pfc. Bradley Manning with a fair trial.
“I don’t think anyone disagrees that the government has enough evidence to start a court martial proceeding. The question is whether they should be proceeding,” Dan Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, told The Guardian back in December 2011.
“It’s outrageous for two reasons. How can there be a fair court martial when the commander in chief, president Obama himself, pronounced that he is guilty [of breaking the law]? Secondly, he has been subjected to 10 and a half months of clearly abusive treatment that in my opinion was immoral and illegal.”