Expose the truth like Bradley Manning did and we'll lock you up for life
By Ed Pilkington
Must-watch video: Bradley Manning - Hero or traitor?
THE US GOVERNMENT claims to have proof that Bradley Manning, the WikiLeaks suspect, knowingly passed state secrets to a location where it was bound to be obtained by enemy groups, a military court in Maryland has heard.
He did not mention al-Qaida, though the terrorist network has been explicity named by the prosecution in previous hearings.
The insistence by the US government that it can prove Manning had actual knowledge that the WikiLeaks dump would be used by enemy groups was instantly disputed by the lead defence lawyer, David Coombs. He demanded that the government produce the evidence to which it was alluding.
Manning has been in military jail for more than two years after he was arrested at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad.
The argument that is currently raging between the two legal sides is of supreme significance – both to Manning personally and potentially to many other parties. For Manning, 24, the legal standard that will be set in his case on the charge of "aiding the enemy" could seal his fate.
The Article 104 count carries the death penalty, though the prosecution has indicated that it will not pursue a capital sentence against Manning. That still leaves the possibility, should he be found guilty of the charge, that he will be sentenced to life in military custody with no chance of parole.
Beyond his individual future, the outcome of the debate on "aiding the enemy" has huge potential ramifications for future prosecutions involving the publication of leaks on the internet. As the American Civil Liberties Union recently pointed out, the US government is attempting to hold the soldier accountable for helping al-Qaida even though he allegedly passed information to a third party, in this case WikiLeaks.
If that standard applies, the ACLU warned, it could set a precedent in which "the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over any service member who gives an interview to a reporter, writes a letter to the editor, or posts a blog on the internet. In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its 'success' would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals."
Manning's defence lawyer, Coombs, made a similar point at the hearing. He invited the military judge, Colonel Denise Lind, to replace WikiLeaks in her mind with the New York Times.
"If I'm a government official and I'm concerned by some aspect of government practice, and I go to the New York Times with information, and the newspaper publishes it, have I now aided the enemy?" Coombs said.