Above: Patriotic Whistleblower by Deborah Van Poolen
In an extremely rare, last-minute move weeks after the government rested its case, military judge Col. Denise Lind allowed prosecutors to expand their rebuttal case, making way for unsupported accusations against PFC Bradley Manning. The late addition far exceeded the usual limits of a simple rebuttal, once again raising supporters’ and journalists’ suspicions about the validity and fairness of the proceedings.
Above Kevin Zeese, a lawyer who serves on the Steering Committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network explains the decision of Judge Lind to reject the motion to dismiss on the most serious charges including aiding the enemy.
In a cynical move, the government prosecution recalled former Specialist Jihrleah Showman, a supervisor against whom Manning had filed an Equal Opportunity complaint. Following Manning’s complaint, Showman was admonished for her use of homophobic language in conversation and workplace signage. In the years since, she has vied for media appearances, augmented by her own vitriolic Tweets, attacking Manning as well as his supporters. Now, at the eleventh hour, she claims to recall a conversation with the 25-year-old army private in which he allegedly shared anti-American opinions.
According to the defense, Ms. Showman is lending an intentional and inaccurate spin to comments Manning made regarding his refusal to follow any authority blindly as an “automaton” (in Manning’s own words) so that they conform to the prosecution’s characterization of someone disloyal to the United States.
No other witness from the prosecution or defense ever testified that Manning harbored any anti-American sentiments, including Ms. Showman herself during previous trips to the stand in this case. In fact, several witnesses offered just the opposite. Lauren McNamara, with whom Manning chatted socially online, testified that Manning told her that he was “concerned about making sure that everyone, soldiers, marines, contractors, even the local nationals, get home to their families.”
PFC Manning’s alleged comments came during a routine one-on-one professional conference, the sort that superiors are instructed to document. Although Showman provided written documentation for other similar discussions in this same time frame—apprising Manning of the unit smoking policy, suggesting that he reduce caffeine consumption, and the possibility of her recommending him for “soldier-of-the-month”—she failed to assign the same importance to these “newly remembered” comments until after Manning had been arrested on suspicion of sharing classified information with WikiLeaks.
Showman’s asserted that she had verbally informed her own superior, then Master Sergeant Paul Adkins, of these alleged comments. Adkins, however, did not corroborate her version of events when he testified later in the afternoon. After numerous sworn statements declaring that he could not recall Showman reporting such incidents, Adkins did eventually sign one written by his lawyer in June 2011. This later statement came as part of Adkins’ appeal to the Army having reduced his rank after Manning was arrested, claiming that he had reported such an incident up the chain of command. In all previous declarations, which Adkins himself wrote and signed, there is mention of disloyal or anti-American statements.
Other superiors in Manning’s chain, such as Chief Warrant Officer Kyle Balonek, testified he had never heard about this allegation, and that he would expect any incident of this sort to have been documented in writing. In fact, this controversial testimony comes only after a defense motion articulated the prosecution’s lack of evidence to support its “Aiding the enemy” charge against Manning, and after several witnesses testified that Manning never displayed any anti-American sentiments.
Given that Showman’s latest testimony contradicts that of every other witness in this trial, including her own earlier statements, it remains to be seen how much weight military judge Colonel Denise Lind will place in this unconventional addition to the court record.
Supporters of PFC Manning, however, are taking action around the world on July 27 to state the actual facts presented in this case: PFC Bradley Manning is a whistle-blower who intended, and accomplished, serving the public good. In Washington DC, supporters will converge at Fort McNair on July 26 to appeal directly to the Convening Authority of this trial, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, to free Bradley Manning. A full page in The New York Times next week will declare, “We are Bradley Manning — We will not relent until this American hero is free.”