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Fuller writes: "On the final day of litigation in Bradley Manning’s court martial, we saw a government dead set on persecuting a whistle-blower to deter those who he might inspire, and a defense intent on salvaging the young soldier’s future. "

Bradley Manning is now awaiting sentencing. (art: K. Rudin/RSN)
Bradley Manning is now awaiting sentencing. (art: K. Rudin/RSN)

Defense Asks Judge to Let Bradley Manning Have a Life

By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network

19 August 13


RSN Special Coverage: Trial of Bradley Manning

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n the final day of litigation in Bradley Manning's court martial, we saw a government dead set on persecuting a whistle-blower to deter those who he might inspire, and a defense intent on salvaging the young soldier's future.

David Coombs, lead defense attorney, implored military judge Col. Denise Lind to give Manning a sentence that "allows him to have a life," after prosecutors requested the judge imprison him for 60 years and fine him $100,000.

Don't "rob him of his youth," Coombs said, in requesting a sentence that would allow Manning to one day find love, "maybe get married, maybe have children, perhaps have a relationship with his children's children."

"Perhaps his biggest crime is that he cared about the loss of life," Coombs said of Manning, asking the judge to account for his pure intentions. Manning explained in February that he was disturbed by the "seemingly delightful bloodlust" his fellow soldiers displayed when gunning down unarmed civilians and journalists in the Collateral Murder video. Coombs portrayed Manning as a humanist, someone who cared not only for American troops but also for contractors and local nationals in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Coombs recounted military psychologist Dr. David Moulton's testimony, regarding Manning's hope not only to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to show that future wars were unnecessary. "This is the person the government wants to give 60 years," he said.

Countering government claims of great harm, Coombs said that the impact from WikiLeaks' releases was "temporary in nature," and that statements on long-term damage were "speculative at best." Prosecution witnesses could connect no casualties to the disclosures, and Judge Lind rejected some testimony speculating about future or indirect harm. Coombs acknowledged that the government addressed what it felt were legitimate impacts with the Information Review Task Force (IRTF), and that Manning doesn't intend to "shirk away" from those impacts, but to claim that they are ongoing, continuing, or getting worse "is to ignore reality."

Explaining Manning as a person, not a symbol, Coombs said Manning is a "young man," an "intelligent man. He's a little geeky at times. But he's caring. He's compassionate. He's respectful." But he had personal issues as well, including gender-identity dysphoria, Coombs said, and the military provided no guidance, no one to turn to for help. He said so "not to excuse" or "minimize" Manning's conduct, but to explain "what this young man was going through."

Manning wasn't accepted by his fellow soldiers, one of whom shoved a door in his face, while others picked on him for being small and gay. His supervisor, Master Sergeant Paul Adkins, was aware of his issues but did nothing to help him.

Despite his issues, Manning endured three years of confinement, some of which (more than nine months in solitary confinement) even the court determined was unlawful, Coombs noted. That shows that he's resilient, and that resilience makes him a "prime candidate for rehabilitation" - a concept the government ignores.

The prosecution is "interested in one thing, and that's punishment," Coombs said.

Sixty years to set an example

Government lawyer Captain Joe Morrow, arguing for a 60-year sentence and $100,000 fine, made the prosecution's intentions crystal clear.

"There's value in deterrence," he said. "This court must send a message to any soldier contemplating compromising national security information." The government wants to set an example of Manning, hoping to instill fear in those who would expose abuses as he did. As Coombs noted later, 60 years would be nearly three times Manning's current age, and it's longer than the lives of any lawyer in the courtroom. It's also long after the documents Manning released would be declassified: most are scheduled to stay secret for just 25 years.

Capt. Morrow reviewed the government's witnesses, beginning with Brig. Gen. Robert Carr, who ran the IRTF, which pulled more than 300 personnel from their jobs and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars identifying and notifying Iraq and Afghan nationals who could be discovered through the war logs' release. He reviewed State Department witnesses who claimed the release of the diplomatic cables harmed our relationships with countries all over the world, namely with a "chilling effect" that made foreign diplomats and otherwise cooperative sources reluctant to speak with the United States or trust it to keep their secrets. He frequently mentioned that these witnesses went into specific detail in the prosecution's many classified sessions, closed off to those without Secret clearances.

Challenging the contention that Manning's unit or command were at fault, Capt. Morrow said, "The Army is not on trial, the chain of command is not on trial. PFC Manning is on trial."

"The Army didn't betray PFC Manning," he said. "PFC Manning betrayed the Army."

Coombs to handle immediate appellate review

After closing arguments, Manning told Judge Lind that he chose Coombs to handle the first appellate process, which is an application for clemency to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the Convening Authority in this court martial. your social media marketing partner
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