Bradley Manning Seeks Plea Deal
by Stephen Lendman
Plea bargains are sought or accepted for lesser sentences on charges faced. Innocent victims take them if offered. They know potentially what they face against hardball prosecutors wanting blood.
If convicted on all or most serious charges, Manning faces potential life in prison. In America, innocence is no defense. Thousands languish unjustifiably in gulag hell. US prisons are some of the worst.
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs notified the military court that he’ll plead guilty to some charges. It’s more a partial plea deal than a traditional one. More on that below.
The Bradley Manning Support Network (BMSN) asks, “When did exposing truth become a crime in America?” It’s criminalized when government rogues want uncomfortable truths kept secret.
Manning is an American hero. He’s a courageous Army intelligence analyst turned whistleblower. Harry Truman once said:
“When even one American – who has done nothing wrong – is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril.”
The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) is an alliance of whistleblowers. Sibel Edmonds founded it in August 2004. It’s independent and nonpartisan. She serves as president.
Its members include “current or former federal employees or civilians working under contract to the United States who, to their detriment or personal risk, bring to light fraud, waste, and abuse in government operations and agencies when such improprieties compromise the national security of the United States.”
At perhaps the most perilous time in world history, exposing vital truths takes on greater importance than ever. A legion of Bradley Mannings is needed.
Exposing government criminality involves great risk. Failure to do so assures unaccountability and greater crimes. America is the world’s leading rogue state. Criminals run it.
They’re waging war on humanity. Human survival is at stake. Stopping them is top priority.
Manning exposed snippets of US criminality. Doing so harmed no one. It got him in trouble. In May 2010, he was arrested in Iraq on suspicion of passing on classified material to WikiLeaks. A Pentagon statement said:
“The Department of Defense takes the management of classified information very seriously because it affects our national security, the lives of our soldiers, and our operations abroad.”
Then Defense Secretary Robert Gates lied. He called the leak “potentially dramatic and grievously harmful….The battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners….”
Unmentioned were multiple US imperial wars, lawless occupations, exploitation of people and resources, crimes of war, against humanity, and genocide, as well as millions of noncombatant civilians killed, injured, or otherwise harmed.
Whistleblowers like Manning deserve praise, not prosecution. They’re heroes. They’re America’s finest. They risk great personal harm to expose vital truths everyone needs to know.
Exposing crimes or intent to commit them deserves highest praise. America equates it with treason, subversion, or terrorism.
Manning faces 22 counts under America’s Espionage Act. He’s also accountable under Articles 92 and 124 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). They include aiding the enemy. It’s a potential capital offense.
Prosecutors said they won’t seek the death penalty. Manning could face life in prison. Possibly it would be without parole. He and Julian Assange received Nobel Peace Prize nominations.
On February 1, 2012, the Movement of the Icelandic Parliament (MIP) nominated Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize. They felt compelled to recognize his important contribution to world peace.
MIP’s letter to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in part said:
“We have the great honor of nominating (Manning) for the 2012 (award).”
He stands accused of leaking documents revealing “a long history of corruption, war crimes and imperialism by the United States government in international dealings.”
The evidence “should never have been kept from public scrutiny.” They document crimes of war and against humanity.”
“Citizens worldwide” are indebted “to the WikiLeaks whistleblower for shedding light on these issues, and so I urge the Committee to award this prestigious prize to accused whistleblower Bradley Manning” for displaying the highest form of courage at great personal risk.
On October 2, Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, moved to have all charges dropped without prejudice. He cited constitutional and Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) violations.
The Sixth Amendment requires “the right to a speedy and public trial….by an impartial jury….and to be informed of the nature and cause of (all charges); to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have” legal counsel assist in defense proceedings.
UCMJ calls for trial within 120 days of restraint and arraignment. When a service member is placed in pre-trial confinement, “immediate steps shall be taken” to inform the accused of all charges, proceed with trial, or dismiss the case entirely.
The Rule for Court Martial (RCM) 707 also calls for trial within 120 days from arrest to arraignment to assure speedy trial proceedings. By the time Manning’s trial begins on February 4, he’ll have been incarcerated for nearly 1,000 days.
Willful delay prevented him from being tried earlier. Doing so was unjustified, unconscionable, and illegal. Coombs said:
“The Convening Authority, therefore, is just as much at fault for the lack of a speedy trial as is the prosecution.”
“The Convening Authority abandoned any attempt to make an independent determination of the reasonableness of any Government delay request.”
“Instead, the Convening Authority operated as a mere rubber stamp by granting all delay requests.”
The Pentagon ordered Manning’s trial delayed. Generals wanted time to punish him ruthlessly. He was isolated in solitary confinement for nine months and imprisoned in pre-trial detention for around 900 days.
In confinement he was subjected to brutal, inhumane treatment. Despite being a model prisoner, he was declared a “Maximum Custody Detainee.” Doing so subjected him to the harshest possible treatment.
BradleyManning.org said “Evidence shows (a) three-star general ordered (his) unlawful, brutal treatment.” Brig commanders followed Pentagon orders.
Constitutional and US statute laws were violated. So was UCMJ’s Article 13. It prohibits pre-trial confinement conditions “any more rigorous” than what’s minimally needed to ensure the accused appears for court hearings.
Coombs uncovered emails that “reveal everyone at Quantico was complicit in the unlawful pretrial treatment, from senior officers to enlisted soldiers.”
Military officials lied. They claimed Manning was placed on special “prevention of injury” watch for his own protection. Brig psychiatrists called his treatment unjustified.
Bradley Manning Support Network attorney Kevin Zeese said emails made public “now make all previous assertions by Quantico and Pentagon officials that they were simply following procedures to keep Bradley Manning safe patently ridiculous.”
Retired Army Col. Ann Wright added:
“The revelation that a Lieutenant General would order the mistreatment of a fellow soldier in violation of the UCMJ leaves me aghast.”
“This general, and those who obeyed his orders to mistreat whistle-blower Bradley Manning while he was held in pre-trial confinement, must be held accountable. If not, the entire military justice system fails all members of the military.”
Manning was subjected to the following harsh treatment:
- isolation for 23 hours a day;
- one hour alone outside in an isolated room; he was shackled, allowed to walk in circles, and returned to his cell the moment he stopped;
- extremely limited activities overall;
- prohibited from exercising;
- directly and by video surveilled constantly;
- barred from accessing any news or other information;
- forced to respond to guard inquiries almost every five minutes all day;
- awakened at night for being out of full view; he was curled up under very uncomfortable blankets;
- denied a pillow and sheets; and
- for weeks subjected to forced nudity; he was kept that way at night and outside his cell mornings for inspection; military officials lied; they claiming it was to prevent him from injuring himself.
The Pentagon exerted great pressure to break Manning emotionally. He hung on courageously throughout his entire ordeal. Obama threw Manning under the bus.
He defended his lawless treatment. He said it met basic standards. He left unexplained gross human rights violations. Coombs said Manning’s constitutional and statutory rights were “trampled on with impunity.”
On November 7, Coombs posted the following information on his web site:
“PFC Manning’s Offered Plea and Forum Selection”
“PFC Manning has offered to plead guilty to various offenses through a process known as ‘pleading by exceptions and substitutions.’ ”
“To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government. Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses. The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea.”
“PFC Manning is not submitting a plea as part of an agreement or deal with the Government. Further, the Government does not need to agree to PFC Manning’s plea; the Court simply has to determine that the plea is legally permissible.”
“If the Court allows PFC Manning to plead guilty by exceptions and substitutions, the Government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses.”
“Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial.”
“PFC Manning has also provided notice of his forum selection. He has elected to be tried by Military Judge alone.”
In other words, Coombs made this offer for Manning. In return, he hopes more serious charges will be dropped or lessened. He awaits word from the court. If willingness is expressed, a traditional plea bargain may follow.
Spokesman for the Bradley Manning Support Network Nathan Fuller said it’s “very premature” to speculate whether prosecutors will show leniency. Given how harshly Manning’s been treated, it appears a long shot at best, but can’t be ruled out.
Manning is world renown. Many distinguished figures and others support him. Pentagon officials may decide to make it appear they’re showing some leniency.
Trial proceedings are expected to last six weeks. Manning chose to be tried by a military judge alone instead of a jury of military officers. Nothing will be known for sure until the judge rules. He has marching orders and will do what he’s told.
Coombs said Manning will plead guilty to lesser charges alone. Perhaps by late November, some indication of court sentiment will be known.
Law Professor Eugene Fidell represents defendants in court-martial case. He was puzzled by Coombs’ move. He said it’s unusual to plead guilty without benefit of a pretrial agreement assuring something in return.
At the same time, Manning hopes court leniency may follow. Cooperating to save government time and expense may help.
It’s hard to know after authorities invested enormous effort and expense to make an example of him. At issue is deterring other whistleblowers. Going soft might encourage them.
At the same time, playing hardball may encourage fighting back. Manning supporters are enraged about his harsh treatment. If he’s imprisoned for decades or life, they won’t be silent.
Retribution will be on the minds of many. Above all, supporters want justice. Manning’s been afforded none so far. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be treated fairly. Police states rarely show leniency and never say they’re sorry.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.