Bradley Manning acquitted of aiding the enemy; sentencing phase begins for other convictions

Bradley Manning being escorted out of the courthouse. bradleymanning.org photo

Bradley Manning being escorted out of the courthouse. bradleymanning.org photo

by the Bradley Manning Support Network. July 30, 2013

“We won the battle, now we need to go win the war,” shared defense attorney David Coombs following today’s verdict. “Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire,” he said to dozens of emotional supporters outside of the Fort Meade, Maryland military courtroom. Coombs expressed subdued optimism going into the expected month-long sentencing phase of the court martial that will determine how long Bradley Manning will remain in confinement.

Bradley Manning had previously accepted responsibility for providing classified information to WikiLeaks, actions covered by ten of the 22 charges. Military judge Colonel Denise Lind found him guilty of 20 of those 22 charges, so PFC Manning still faces the possibility of over 100 years behind bars.

Five of the more serious charges PFC Manning was convicted of today are ripe for appeal as Judge Lind altered the charges only a week ago in order to match up with Government’s evidence presented, long after the defense closed its case.

Amnesty International criticized the verdict, and the government’s refusal to investigate exposed crimes:

The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence. Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing – reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government.

Following sentencing, supporters will appeal to Major General Jeffery Buchanan to use his ability as Convening Authority of these proceedings to reduce any sentence handed down by Judge Lind.

Additionally, a campaign to urge President Barack Obama to pardon Bradley Manning will follow. Last week, a full page ad in The New York Times, noted, “Bradley Manning believed you, Mr. President, when you came into office promising the most transparent administration in history, and that you would protect whistle-blowers.  Now would be a good time to start upholding that pledged transparency, beginning with PFC Manning.”

Bradley Manning’s family released the following reaction this afternoon:

While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform.

We want to express our deep thanks to David Coombs, who has dedicated three years of his life to serving as lead counsel in Brad’s case. We also want to thank Brad’s Army defense team, Major Thomas Hurley and Captain Joshua Tooman, for their tireless efforts on Brad’s behalf, and Brad’s first defense counsel, Captain Paul Bouchard, who was so helpful to all of us in those early confusing days and first suggested David Coombs as Brad’s counsel.

Most of all, we would like to thank the thousands of people who rallied to Brad’s cause, providing financial and emotional support throughout this long and difficult time, especially Jeff Paterson and Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network. Their support has allowed a young army private to defend himself against the full might of not only the US army but also the US government.

STATEMENT FROM THE CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:

CCR Condemns Manning Verdict, Questions Future of First Amendment

Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

July 30, 2013, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement in response to the verdict in the trial of Bradley Manning:

While the “aiding the enemy” charges (on which Manning was rightly acquitted) received the most attention from the mainstream media, the Espionage Act itself is a discredited relic of the WWI era, created as a tool to suppress political dissent and antiwar activism, and it is outrageous that the government chose to invoke it in the first place against Manning. Government employees who blow the whistle on war crimes, other abuses and government incompetence should be protected under the First Amendment.

We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free. If the government equates being a whistleblower with espionage or aiding the enemy, what is the future of journalism in this country?  What is the future of the First Amendment?

Manning’s treatment, prosecution, and sentencing have one purpose: to silence potential whistleblowers and the media as well. One of the main targets has been our clients, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, for publishing the leaks. Given the U.S. government’s treatment of Manning, Assange should be granted asylum in his home country of Australia and given the protections all journalists and publishers deserve.

We stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and call for the government to take heed and end its assault on the First Amendment.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.