As Manning Trial Opens, Prosecution Hides Name of “Enemy” He Allegedly Aided
Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has already pled guilty to several counts of unauthorized release and distribution of classified material to the public interest website WikiLeaks, still faces a court martial on controversial charges of "aiding the enemy" by leaking the data to the media. But who is the enemy? In court papers that surfaced last week, prosecutors accuse Manning of aiding three "enemies": al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and a "classified enemy," whose name the government wants to keep secret from the public.
The name cannot be kept secret from Manning, because under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution he has a right to be informed of the details of the charges against him. In fact, a military spokeswoman insisted that "who the enemy ‘is’ is not classified. What ‘is’ classified is that our government has confirmed that this enemy is in receipt of certain compromised classified information, and that the means and methods of collection that the government has employed to make that determination are classified," wrote the spokeswoman. (italics added.)
This makes no sense. The documents were released publicly on the Internet, where anyone and everyone has access to them to this day. There can be nothing secret about the so-called "means and methods" by which the government "confirmed" that the classified enemy had secret data when everyone has access. Naming the classified enemy would reveal nothing.
Manning, who leaked thousands of diplomatic cables, incident reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Guantánamo detainee profiles, and, most significantly, video footage of a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad showing indiscriminate killing of civilians, says he did so to promote global dialog about U.S. foreign and military policy. Normally, charges of aiding the enemy are reserved for those who directly provide data to hostile entities in time of war, not to those who leak data to the press. Thus Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, was charged with lesser offenses that were eventually dismissed.
In fact, the government has not charged anyone with "aiding the enemy" for a leak to the press since the Civil War, when Pvt. Henry Vanderwater was sentenced in 1863 to three months of hard labor for giving an Alexandria, Virginia, newspaper a command roster of Union soldiers. Manning faces death or life in prison.
The "classified enemy" gambit, like the government's whole "aiding the enemy" case, arises because the government's case, as many legal scholars have argued, involves some highly questionable overreaching to turn a simple leak case into an "aiding the enemy" case.
Manning's court martial, which will probably last more than two months, starts today.
To Learn More:
'Classified Enemy' in Manning Case Confounds Scholars (by Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service)
Draft Jury Instruction for the Manning Case (United States Army First Judicial Circuit) (pdf)
Pentagon Documents Refer to WikiLeaks Members as Enemies of the United States…Equal to Al-Qaeda (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)
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