Thursday, July 11

The US Army vs. PFC Bradley Manning

The US Army vs. PFC Bradley Manning
By Gerald A. Loeb


     In the late 1970’s I was a soldier in the US Army stationed in Europe. Assigned to V Corps Headquarters, I toiled in the Engineer Section as a stenographer/admin support.  In my many jobs, there was one that was most paramount: safeguarding classified material.

    The Army did a great job of training me; I was carefully instructed on destruction of any classified typewriter ribbons (because one can obtain the material by reading the letters backwards), locking the safe, not discussing this with anyone outside of the office and most importantly, making sure the map of all atomic demolitions munitions (ADMs) was secure at all times.

    These ADMs were tactical nuclear weapons scattered throughout Germany; there were over 3,000 of these devices along the old West-East German border. I was told that just one could take out “The World Trade Center and 100 yards around it.”

    The Army also did a great job of scaring the heck out of me if I violated any security protocols.  Because I spoke fairly fluent German, I was especially warned against “collaborating with the enemy” which at that time was the USSR.  After signing the usual paperwork and waivers on what penalties to expect if I did so, I went to work.

    In the 21 months I worked at that assignment, there were no security breaches and through six separate inspections, not a page in any of the 45 operations plans were ever missing, copied or given to the “enemy.”

    When I got back to the US, I found out that the knowledge of these ADMs was no secret at all; in fact, they had surfaced in discussions with the Soviets under the umbrella topic of weapons reduction in Europe.  I was stunned that the material I had safeguarded so carefully was pretty much known to everyone, even in the days before the internet, youtube, etc.

    Enter Pfc. Bradley Manning. 

    On July 10, 2013, the defense rested Wednesday in the court-martial of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused in the massive release of data to online whistle-blower WikiLeaks.
    Pfc. Manning gave the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks more than 700,000 U.S. intelligence files, videos and diplomatic cables. In February, he pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges of unauthorized possession, willful communication and improper storage of classified material and could be sentenced to a possible 20 years in prison.
   He pleaded not guilty to violating the Espionage and the Computer Fraud and Abuse acts, which carry life sentences. He also pleaded not guilty to larceny, aiding the enemy and improper use of government equipment.  Conviction on one or more of these charges could carry a life sentence in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
     It is obvious Pfc. Manning will go to jail; the question is now for how long.
     However, the government must prove that Pfc. Manning “aided and abetted the enemy,” “exposed secrets of an operational nature,” and that the information was passed to “a terrorist enabler.”  On the surface, these are serious charges.
    In fact, what Pfc. Manning really did was expose and embarrass the US State Department in their dirty dealings, exposed some videos of enemy being killed and soldiers joking about it, and gave it to WikiLeaks, a well-known internet site. 
     As to serious charge number one, the Army is having difficulties proving this.
    Published as the "Guantanamo Files," the nearly 800 Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee briefs are part of the more than 700,000 files Manning uploaded to WikiLeaks in the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
    But Col. Morris Davis, who was the military prison's third prosecutor from 2005 to 2007, testified Tuesday he didn't think any suspected terrorist would find the assessment documents useful and compared the assessments to "baseball cards" because of the generalized information they contained, Courthouse News reported.
   "Other than causing embarrassment to the country that it was released, I don't see the enemy could have gained any benefit," he said. "If they're trying to achieve some sort of strategic or tactical advantage, the detainee assessment brief is not the place to get it."
   So we have a former US Army prosecutor saying that the information could not have “aided and abetted the enemy.”  So much for the first serious charge.
   The second charge, exposing secret of an operational nature, was also debunked.  Since the war in Iraq and Afghanistan started, thousands of soldiers have posted Youtube videos of buildings being blown up, enemy being killed and other acts.  None of them has been prosecuted.
     Another defense witness, a security expert from the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, said he could locate through official channels more than 60 percent of battlefield incidents information Manning is charged with disclosing through official channels, Courthouse News said.
   Manning's lawyers asked Cassius Hall to review 102 of "significant action" reports Manning are accused of releasing. Hall said he could find 62 of the incidents reported in the public domain.
    Prosecutors countered even when an individual report is not sensitive, Manning's release of hundreds of thousands of them could have put troops at risk because enemies could have analyzed them for patterns or weaknesses.
   As for the third charge, Harvard Professor Yochai Benkler, testifying for the defense, said Manning enriched what he called the "Networked Fourth Estate," Courthouse News Service reported.
    Benkler, the final defense witness, said Manning, nor anybody else for that matter, would have had any reason to consider WikiLeaks a terrorist-enabler. He pointed out The New York Times, Britain's The Guardian and Der Spiegel, a German daily, coordinated with WikiLeaks in reporting on the Afghanistan and Iraq war documents.
   Earlier in the trial, the US Army tried to portray Pfc. Manning as a “malcontent” and “slacker”.  These were refuted by his own supervisors who told the truth: Manning was their “go to guy” when there were computer problems; he was a decent, if unremarkable soldier and kept pretty much to himself. In short, a perfect soldier to have run the computer system and its massive files which were classified as secrets. 
    So there you have it. Pfc. Manning exposed no spies or their names, gave no operational details on secret operations that are currently in progress, and gave it to WikiLeaks, who distributed this to major media outlets and thus became public knowledge.
   So what is really he guilty of? Using a Lady Gaga CD to copy and store the “secret” information, smuggle it out of headquarters and into the hands of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder.  That’s pretty much it and he has pleaded guilty to those charges.
    Here’s what we have here: a young soldier who violated the rules and aired some pretty dirty laundry, especially at the State Department; we have equally embarrassed Presidential Administration as well, who then ordered the US army to “lower the boom” on Manning and thus prevent other outbursts like this by insiders.
   If the current administration hoped the trial of Pfc. Manning would chill any insiders into submission, the recent case of Edward Snowden also proves otherwise.  Snowden is accused of leaking sensitive information to the Chinese and Russian governments.
   The upshot is this: Manning screwed up when he copied the information onto a CD and took it out of the HQ.  But nothing he leaked can be considered treasonous. But the Army, under the direct order of the Commander-In-Chief, wants to slam him into a federal pen for the rest of his life to make a point: Don’t mess with us.
   While Pfc. Manning is no hero, he isn’t a traitor, either.  He actually showed the public, which has been spoon-fed information from “embedded journalists” on what the war really looks like. He also exposed the lies and dirty dealings of our State Department, plastered some pretty horrible-looking videos on it as well, and exposed one critical piece of information that the administration has been trying to hide since day one: This was isn’t going too well and has not exactly been conducted with any sense of honor. 
   Folks, as a combat veteran myself, I can tell you that wars are never pretty.
   So, when the media starts yammering about his alleged crimes, consider these three things:
     Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood murderer of 13 soldiers and civilians, had his trial delayed for years over petty matters. He actually killed people and the Army was pressured into calling it “Workplace Violence,” even though the traitor yelled “Allah Akbar,” as he sprayed the defenseless soldiers with deadly bullets.  It was domestic terrorism, plain and simple.
   In 2001, Former FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, who gave away secret documents to the Russians for money, was given a life sentence.  His crimes were far worse than Pfc. Manning’s because spies were exposed and killed.
    The Walker US Navy spy wing operated for years and passed along extremely sensitive information to the Soviets, including war-time locations of fleets, launch codes and many other items the Soviets could have used to attack America, among other things.
    So are we to believe that this Army soldier is even remotely in the same league as these traitors? 

   The trial will be over fairly soon and the verdict rendered. When it comes in will show if there is justice in the military court system or is it just a sham depending upon politics?

Copyright 2013 By Gerald A. Loeb

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