Death Penalty for Bradley Manning, the Alleged WikiLeaks Whistleblower?


Alleged WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been in US custody since last May, after he reportedly told a former hacker that he had passed thousands of classified US military documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, had 22 new charges filed against him on Tuesday by the US Army, including a capital offense — “aiding the enemy” — for which the government has said it will not seek the death penalty, although, as Wired explained, “under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the presiding judge ultimately decides what charges to refer to court-martial and whether to impose the death penalty.”

Manning, who is is held at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia, is waiting to hear whether a mental health hearing requested by his attorney will be allowed to proceed. His mental health has been in question due to the perceived severity of his solitary confinement, and the undoubted pressure exerted on him by the administration, which has been humiliated by WikiLeaks’ revelations over the last nine months, including the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghan and Iraqi war logs, and the diplomatic cables whose release dominated headlines in the closing months of 2010. I discussed the concerns about Manning’s mental health in my articles, Is Bradley Manning Being Held as Some Sort of “Enemy Combatant”?, Psychologists Protest the Torture of Bradley Manning to the Pentagon; Jeff Kaye Reports and Former Quantico Commander Objects to Treatment of Bradley Manning, the Alleged WikiLeaks Whistleblower.

As well as being charged with “aiding the enemy,” Manning has also been charged with “five counts of theft of public property or records, two counts of computer fraud, eight counts of transmitting defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, and a count of wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing it would be accessible to the enemy … Five additional charges are for violating Army computer security regulations.”

According to the Guardian, “Pentagon and military officials say some of the classified information released by WikiLeaks contained the names of informants and others who had cooperated with the US military in Afghanistan, endangering their lives. According to the officials, the US military attempted to contact many of those named and take them into US bases for their own protection. Military officials told NBC News that a small number of them have still have not been found, with one official quoted as saying: ‘We didn’t get them all.'”

Observers are closely watching developments in Bradley Manning’s case, because of the possible ramifications for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who is currently in the UK, fighting attempts to extradite him to Sweden to face sex charges. Assange’s supporters fear that the proposal to extradite him to Sweden is a thinly veiled attempt to secure his onward extradition to the US, although it is still not clear that the US government has any grounds for calling for his extradition, because, unlike Manning (or whoever it was who leaked the information to WikiLeaks), Assange can argue — and has many defenders prepared to argue also — that WikiLeaks is essentially a media organization. As such, the argument goes, WikiLeaks has dealt with leaked classified material that has a compelling public interest angle by doing what media outlets have regularly done with such material — publishing it.

In addition, the fact that Assange chose, last summer, to establish collaborative relationships with mainstream media — the Guardian, Der Spiegel, the New York Times and others — who, with the cables in particular, dictated what to publish, and when, ought to strengthen this argument, although as the charges stand, the “enemy” that Bradley Manning is accused of “aiding” is clearly WikiLeaks, and, by extension, the major newspapers who worked with WikiLeaks, and, I guess, the readers of those newspapers, even if the narrow intent is to focus on informants endangered in Afghanistan.

Neither WikiLeaks nor Julian Assange are mentioned in the charge sheet against Bradley Manning, who faces a life sentence in prison if convicted on the latest charges — if, that is, he avoids the death penalty for something that, despite the hyperbole emanating from the corridors of power in the US, has primarily been a source of embarrassment and a sign that the opening up of access to classified documents after 9/11 to an estimated three million US government employees was a whistleblowing disaster waiting to happen.

Those interested in Bradley Manning’s case can visit the website of the Bradley Manning Support Network to contribute to his legal funds, or to find out more information about his case. When the news charges were announced, Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network (and Courage to Resist) wrote:

I’m shocked that the military opted to charge Pfc. Bradley Manning today with the capital offense of “aiding the enemy.” While the military is down playing the fact, the option to execute Bradley has been placed on the table. It’s beyond ironic that leaked US State Department cables have contributed to revolution and revolt in dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa, yet an American may be executed, or at best face life in prison, for being the primary whistleblower. Millions of Americans, and even more internationally, clearly understand the contribution of Pfc. Manning towards not only freedom of information, but literally freedom itself. It’s hard for me to reconcile that with the US Army’s additional criminal charges against Pfc. Manning today.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

43 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Dennis O’Neil wrote:


  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Jeanine Molloff wrote:

    The Army brass must be guilty of an awful lot to need to attack this young man.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Sharing this, Andy. You work fast.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Halimah Felt wrote:

    hopefully this will soon ignite protests and mass marches that will eventually topple our corrupt and wicked regime! including both its traitorous parties which perpetually betray us all but their greedy owners and contemptible covert masters!! and all before they can get Bradley Manning in court for sentencing! let alone execution or any more time in prison!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Ethan Mccord wrote:

    Great article Andy!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, everyone. Pretty gutted by the “aiding the enemy” charge — though Nixon tried and failed with the same in Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers case. Nevertheless, logic suggests that “the enemy” = WikiLeaks = Wikileaks’ media partners, including the Guardian and the New York Times = us.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Roseanne Lasater wrote:

    Yes, Bradley Manning stands in our shoes. We need to support him.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Barbara Burns wrote:

    Thanks, Andy.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Sue Katz wrote:

    Horrifying. Re-posting.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Ethan Mccord wrote:

    i think the “enemy” they are trying to refer to is the Taliban? I could be wrong however i think theyre trying to say that the release put the lives of Afghani informants in danger, and due to some of them not being found. Either way its a stretch, and the Governments position on this is disgusting. So they have Manning, possibly will have Assange, should i start waiting for my door to be kicked in, my children taken, and receive a life sentence also, since ive been told many times i am “Feeding fuel to the enemies???”

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Good point re: the Taliban, Ethan, but I agree it’s a stretch, and yes we should worry about a ripple effect. Might I not be “aiding the enemy” by pointing out US crimes that might assist America’s enemies to develop their dislike of US policies?

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Linda Ma wrote:


  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Marilyn Lamb wrote:

    What in God’s name is our government hiding?

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Ethan Mccord wrote:

    what is our government NOT hiding?

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Lisa Barr wrote:

    See if we can get this song played—this is so important–pop culture matters! And it’s a good song.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Lisa Barr wrote:


  18. Death Penalty for Bradley Manning, the Alleged WikiLeaks Whistleblower? « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad 2 March, […]

  19. Virginia Simson says...

    Yes, Lisa that is true.


    The truth will out.

  20. Death Penalty for Bradley Manning, the Alleged WikiLeaks … | The Daily Conservative says...

    […] original post here: Death Penalty for Bradley Manning, the Alleged WikiLeaks … Share and […]

  21. Andy Worthington says...

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Dhyanne Green wrote:

    The US Dept of ‘InJustice’ and Obama administration has to been seen as ‘being in control’. The BIG question that has not been answered – how in the hell was Bradley Manning, way down the pecking order, able to do this? Who, higher up the chain was not doing their job, why were there no alerts by ‘all the supposed security and checks and balances alleged to have been in place’. Was he ‘set up’ for a reason? Is the US Govt & Dept of InJustice using this incident as an excuse to bring in all the ‘controls’ under the guise of ‘national security’ – aka Chinese type control of its peoples!!!! Smacks of ‘Iraq Invasion’ fabrications all over again.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Don Kunes wrote:

    hear, hear

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Brian Barth wrote:


  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Halimah Felt wrote:

    yes! shared! keep this in front of people: keep sharing!

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Sylvia Martin wrote:

    PFC Bradley Manning
    c/o Courage to Resist
    484 Lake Park Ave., # 41, Oakland, CA 94610
    cards to him as well as donations to his legal defense fund

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Ghaliyaa Haq wrote:

    Sylvia THANK YOU!

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Samantha Sisco wrote:

    This is so wrong!

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Neal wrote:

    Freedom of press depends on what one says. See “Freedom for Egypt, Iran, and Mary Neal!”

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Chelsea Channing wrote:

    Wrong indeed

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Mike TruthandjusticeWhen wrote:

    The real criminals fled with our cash and gold to paraguay.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Bob Alft wrote:

    The Enemy is us. When Cheney/Rove blew Valerie Plame’s cover there was some real damage done to agents inside Iraq. And we know how that was dealt with.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, everyone. Keep the comments coming — and please keep sharing!

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Lamantia Vinyard wrote:

    Whether you agree with the war or not, you cannot deny that leaking information to the enemy, especially during wartime, is a CRIME punishable by death. The law wasn’t just invented for this situation, it’s been on the books forever, and it’s on the books in every country, not just the “horrible” USA. If you think he’s a martyr for the cause applaud him for it as he takes his lumps, but don’t act like he didn’t do anything unlawful and should get away with it. Yes, Cheney should have been prosecuted for the same reason. Treason is treason. Two wrongs don’t make a right. etc. etc. etc!

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Ethan you’re a marked man lol and Birgitta was pulled in recently as you probably know for her past contact with Assange, your video…wanted to check credit card receipts, e-mails friends etc… me too watched no…for not being a good girl and keeping my mouth shut on several issues … my last meeting with Brit govt they asked me not to write on Facebook… I couldn’t believe it… so I write more now….

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Josh Langford wrote:

    I think the aiding of the enemy refers to the names of Afghans which were carelessy published, not only by Wikileaks I might add but also the NYT and the Guardian. However don’t take that as me defending the US position in any way!

    Andy what you say about pointing out US crimes being one day construed as aiding the enemy is exactly what makes this so nefarious and why decent people should support Bradley Manning in any way they can.

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    Martin Niemöller – 1892-1984

    It’s a slippery slope we’re on but as demonstrated in the Middle East the true power still lies with the people even when, as in the West’s case, we forget that fact.

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    On Digg, wanacare wrote:

    This is horrible news. Bradley Manning the hero who cares that 10,000 people were executed, 5,000 decapitated and 200 children were tortured to death under the US authority and instead of getting the Medal of Honor that he should get for reporting the horrors (if he did report it) he is being charged with the maximum the supposed “nice” administration can charge.

    He is a Hero and will lead the way to a new path. Thank you to all who write or proclaim his name.

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    On Common Dreams, Obedient Servant wrote:

    It’s “Evening At the Improv” in Amerika!

    To paraphrase a concept from the “Downing Street Memo” days, the authorities are fixing the charges and process around the desired outcome: utterly discrediting and destroying Bradley Manning– wringing out whatever they can from the pulped dregs of his life to use as chum to entrap other fish, and further grease the juggernaut of the Permanent Global War on a Noun.

    As with the Serious-Sounding charges, they’ll also make up the “process” as they go along to achieve this end. The perpetrators, enablers, co-conspirators, and Establishment commentariat will pronounce all of this Strictly Legit, even if they slip left and right in their own slime trails while doing so.

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    vdb wrote:

    “aiding the enemy”

    so many to chose from!

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    HailCODEPINK wrote:

    “aiding the enemy:” “Enemy” is unspecified in the charges, but is clearly the American people. The worst crime is to reveal for all to see the hidden crimes of our overlords–such a great scam they’ve got going.

  41. Bradley Manning Torture: Obama Ignores Criticism By UN Rapporteur And 300 Legal Experts – OpEd « Eurasia Review says...

    […] = 'wpp-255'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true};In the ongoing scandal regarding the treatment of Pfc Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower responsible for leaking a treasure trove of classified US documents to […]

  42. Camp Ashraf (C.I.) | thecommonillsbackup says...

    […] the ongoing scandal regarding the treatment of Pfc Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower responsible for leaking a treasure trove of classified US documents to […]

  43. UN Torture Rapporteur Accuses US Government of Cruel and Inhuman Treatment of Bradley Manning « Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle says...

    […] Whistleblower. In addition, as I noted in an article last November, after Manning had been charged, and when a date was set for his first hearing: Among the disturbing details to emerge was […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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