US Private Bradley Manning will learn his fate today. After 3 years in custody, the man accused of a major leak of classified data to the WikiLeaks website will find out whether he has been found guilty of aiding the enemy. 25-year-old Manning will hear his verdict at 17:00 GMT. Mr. Kevin Zeese from Baltimore Maryland. He is the Director of Come Home America, attorney and a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network shared his forecasts on this high-profile case with the Voice of Russia.
Bradley Manning enlisted in the US Army in 2007. In 2009, Private Manning was posted to Iraq. His name first appeared in the media in late 2009, when the WikiLeaks website posted video footage of an Apachi helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad, leaked by Manning.
WikiLeaks continued to release tens of thousands of documents relating to the Afghan war, provided by Manning. The website later disclosed thousands of sensitive messages written by US diplomats, military records from the Iraq war, and Guantanamo Bay files.
In 2010, Manning was charged with several offences relating to stealing secret information. A year later, the US Army added 22 extra counts connected with the unauthorized possession and distribution of more than 700,000 classified diplomatic and military documents.
In February Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him. He did not deny leaking the cables, but claimed the charge of aiding the enemy was unjustified. US Army Private told the court he leaked the documents to spark a public debate about the US foreign policy and the role of the military.
If Bradley Manning is found guilty on the aiding the enemy charge, he could be sentenced to life in prison. Other charges that he has pleaded guilty to could carry a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.
Mr. Kevin Zeese from Baltimore Maryland. He is the Director of Come Home America, attorney and a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Mr. Zeese, what verdict are you expecting to hear for Bradley Manning? And if I may ask so, why?
Well, I’m not going to predict, I mean we’ll see what the judge does. She has total discretion. I think the Government’s case on the most serious charges was not very strong. The court gave the Government multiple opportunities to fix their record making two unusual steps. One, she allowed the prosecutors to reopen the case after it was closed in order to bolster their testimony on this most serious charge. And second, she allowed the Government to change the charge after the defense had rested, change the charge on the computer crime which also has a very heavy stance. And the defense had no chance to put new evidence to challenge that charge.
So, she has shown herself to be very pro-prosecution. That makes me nervous. She has been appointed to the US Court of Army Appeals. I hope that’s not a reward for her doing the empire’s bidding. She is a very smart judge, very thorough. I hope that she will be balanced in this and come to the right conclusion which is – Manning should be found guilty of the charges he has admitted to and nothing more.
You’ve mentioned that there were several unusual things here. The prosecutors, they were able to reopen the case and they were actually able to change the chargers. Is this standard operating procedure or is there a precedent in this, or is the judge trying to send the message here?
I think it is highly unusual. I can’t think of a case where are those kinds of things have happened before. I think the second choice of changing the charges could actually result in the mistrial. And I even have my doubts about the first one. So, these are unusual charges and I hope that the judge is not into sending messages. Her job is not to send a message, her job is to find the facts based on the evidence. And the Government did not present a very strong case on the most serious charges.
The most serious charge of aiding the enemy is serious not just for Bradley, but also for the US journalism. It will put of the US journalists at risk if they criticize the military. The military goes to war unprepared, has weaknesses with responding to IEDs for example and the media reports that – isn’t that aiding the enemy, telling the enemy about the weakness of the US military? If there are challenges to the preparedness of the military and discussion of their failures in battle, isn’t that aiding the enemy?
So, it is going to get very hard for the media to report on what the military is doing and what our national security is doing without the fear of being prosecuted with the potential death penalty offence of aiding the enemy. So, it’s a very important decision. I hope the judge aside any message sending and in fact does the right thing.
Let’s look at this from the different point of view. What if the verdict is different? How would that change the perception of Manning’s figure and his whistle-blowing?
You mean different if he is found not guilty of the serious charges?
That would be a great thing, I mean I hope that would then begin a discussion not just of the verdict and its importance, but also rather than looking at Manning let’s start looking at those documents, let’s have the debate that Bradley Manning wanted to see happening. It’s very clear what Manning’s purpose was. He said it to the guy who informed on him. He wanted to see a national debate on the US foreign policy which is really a way off track, too much of an empire militarist transnational corporation foreign policy.
And whatever result of this case is, I hope that there is a debate about what those documents are about. My hope for Bradley Manning is that he is found guilty of the charges that he has agreed to, which you would potentially be 20 years in jail. It is 10 charges, two years each. It could be as low as no more time in jail, I mean the options are wide open for the judge. She can do anything she wants. There is no mandatory sentence here. She has a complete flexibility. But the real key thing here is let’s get beyond the Manning’s case and start debating the US foreign policy which needs a major course correction, it is way off track.
I think a lot of people will agree with you that Americans really need to debate the foreign policy. But let’s take another step back. How has the Manning’s story affected American society in general?
You know, they’ve done their best in the military to keep Manning’s story out of the media and they’ve been very intimidating at the media. Just the first day of closing argument the media room had camouflage troops with weapons walking up and down the looking over the shoulders of reporters. They were intensely searched when they went in and out of the room. The media has not been given access to the documents so that they can understand the case. The military did a great job by keeping it out of the press.
But the impact is much bigger than that, even with that, because there is a lot of discussion online, on the social networks – on Facebook, on Twitter. People who care about these issues know about that. And someone like Edward Snowden, for example, – the NSA whistleblower – says he was inspired by Bradley Manning and mistreatment of Manning actually encouraged him to leak the NSA spying documents.
So, my argument is that no matter what happens in this case, you are going to see more and more people coming forward and leaking documents. They may frighten nine out of ten people, but that one person who comes forward and becomes a hero really will do a tremendous opportunity for transforming this country away from this kind of totalitarian leanings we’ve seen since 9\11.
And again, Manning I believe have shown that there is a division. You’ve had some people at the top of the State Department for example who resigned over the treatment of Manning and came out against it. You had all sorts of petitions and people giving Manning awards. He’s won at least two peace prizes in the last two months. And he’s been nominated by about a 100 000 people to the Nobel Peace Prize. So, a lot of Americans are waking up and I think that’s the process.