Court Limits Bradley Manning's Ability To Use Whistleblower Defense

from the motive-limited dept

A key part of the legal fight concerning Bradley Manning over the past few weeks was whether or not he’d be able to present his own motives as part of his defense — showing that he believed that he was engaged in act of whistleblowing that would be good for the US. His legal team argued that this intent would push back on the Espionage Act claims, since the intent was never to help Al Qaeda or any other enemy, but rather to help the US. However, the court has mostly — but not entirely — barred Manning from using this defense, meaning that he will have a much more difficult time arguing that his acts were a form of whistleblowing.

Basically, Manning’s legal team won’t be able to raise his motives for most of the charges, though they will be able to raise motives during any sentencing. They will be able to raise motives, narrowly focused, on the question of whether or not he was “aiding the enemy” and to show that he was not “dealing with the enemy.” That’s at least a small step in the right direction. However, there are multiple other charges where he cannot raise his motive — including charges around whether or not he had “good faith” in releasing the documents and that he “wrongfully and wantonly caused to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the United States government.” Basically, the judge is saying that those charges require an objective standard, rather than Manning’s specific viewpoint.

The other issue that Manning’s team appears to have lost on was their desire to show the lack of harm from all of the leaks. The court ruled that this really doesn’t matter in the trial, because it’s all after the fact, and Manning did not know beforehand the results and whether or not it resulted in harm. Of course, part of Manning’s defense is that he chose documents that would not cause harm on purpose — but the judge apparently disagreed.

All in all, this definitely increases the likelihood that Manning will lose in court.

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Comments on “Court Limits Bradley Manning's Ability To Use Whistleblower Defense”

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55 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

he need’s to get new lawyers, trying for whistle blower defence is just stupid, It’s the wrong defence and his laywers should have been fully aware of that.

It’s is equally clear that he is not in a position to determine if damage was done or if he aided the enemy.

He can have his own opinions on that, but there was no way to know what damage or harm he made.

Fact is, he basically has NO defence at all, he would be equally stupid to take this to a court if a plea was on the table.

when it comes down to it, it does not matter what his motives were or are. Nor can he honestly claim ‘whistle blower’ because none of the information actually showed that anyone was doing anything wrong, it detailed what they did and said but nothing from the information shows any wrongdoing apart from the act’s made by manning.

He needs to come clean, give up names and contacts and hope the hell he get’s offered a plea.

There is no doubt he will spend a long time in prison, very doubtful he will get death.. But if his lawyers are as stupid as they appear it’s just possible.

There are some things you do that have no reasonable defence, this is one of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How dare a person show other people what some people did

he need’s to get new lawyers, trying for whistle blower defence is just stupid, It’s the wrong defence and his laywers should have been fully aware of that.
Your opinion

It’s is equally clear that he is not in a position to determine if damage was done or if he aided the enemy.
Proof required

He can have his own opinions on that, but there was no way to know what damage or harm he made.
People who are not future tellers should be tortured and imprisoned.

Fact is, he basically has NO defence at all, he would be equally stupid to take this to a court if a plea was on the table.
That’s the plan. Remove all lines of defense so as to technically prove guilt, of something.

when it comes down to it, it does not matter what his motives were or are. Nor can he honestly claim ‘whistle blower’ because none of the information actually showed that anyone was doing anything wrong, it detailed what they did and said but nothing from the information shows any wrongdoing apart from the act’s made by manning.
Collateral Damage video showed nothing wrong. Just some sandniggers getting killed USA style .. USA USA USA.

He needs to come clean, give up names and contacts and hope the hell he get’s offered a plea.
Blackmail.

There is no doubt he will spend a long time in prison, very doubtful he will get death.. But if his lawyers are as stupid as they appear it’s just possible.
Torture already received is not enough.

There are some things you do that have no reasonable defence, this is one of them.
How dare a person show other people what some people did.

Worse than starting an illegal war that kills over 100,000 innocent people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Lets guess how this plays out

Pile on the charges, the more the merrier, then get manning to plead guilty, to avoid 35 or 50 years in jail

As long as we get that guilty plea, or if he doesnt submit, guilty verdict, thats what counts, not for his crimes, but to make example of him and this morally legal act, and to politically marginalize him in the future

Obiden two sides of an evil coin

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

none of the information actually showed that anyone was doing anything wrong

Have you ever heard of “bacha bazi”? It’s pretty sick. It’s an Afghan tradition of taking young boys and dressing them up like women and making them dance around all erotically and then typically having your way with him when he’s done.

At one point, a US defense contractor – DynCorp – had bought a teenage bacha bazi for some Afghan recruits. They also bought some drugs. This was locally referred to as “the Kunduz incident” or “the Kunduz scandal”.

One of the WikiLeaks cables described how the Afghans were begging the US Embassy to quash the story.

So let me get this straight. You’re telling me that this disgusting bacha bazi practice and selling drugs to Afghan recruits is “not doing anything wrong”? In the famous words of Dick Cheney, GFY.

Ninja (profile) says:

Any sane person will see how unfair this trial is being to Bradley. Any sane person will agree that he has had his basic human rights violated repeatedly during the time passed since he was arrested. Any sane person will agree that the US justice system is NOT fair, does NOT follow their Constitution and does NOT care for the regular citizen as long as the powers remain in power sucking vast amounts of money in and ruining lives, the economy and the future of the country.

Carry on.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re:

Seriously i doubt any justice will be seen here,Manning is going to be used as an example and if they dont lock him up for a few decades it is going to look like they dont punish whistle blowers, thereby causing more people to release information, even if it is not damaging anyone other than those committing crimes. If this was in the UK, everyone would be up in arms it would be headline news in the newspapers and the government would be forced to backtrack on their false claims when they were called out in big bold headlines. But for some reason it is only a small minority of Americans trying to get this nasty activity by the government out into the light of day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

As usual, you are wrong:

The UCMJ does not follow the Constitution or civilian law on numerous issues. First, under the UCMJ some activities are considered crimes that would not be criminal for civilians like adultery, sodomy, disrespecting an officer, and fraternization (relationships between officers and enlisted or non commissioned officers and their subordinates). Penalties for certain offenses differ from the civilian judicial system. Though the Supreme Court decided in Coker v. Georgia and Kennedy v. Louisiana that the death penalty was not allowed in cases of adult or child rape, the military court has no such provisions and the death penalty is allowed in both situations. Some final differences in the UCMJ and civilian court systems are that the UCMJ does not require indictment by a grand jury and that the jury consists of all military members.

from: learning.con.wordpress.com

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ninja, this isn’t the US justice system we’re dealing with in this case. It’s the UCMJ, the Uniform Code of Military Justice. When you get sworn into the military you voluntarily give up SOME of your legal rights. One of those rights is that during your time in the military you must obey the UCMJ and THEN the laws of the US and various states.

Make no mistake, Manning should be charged with some violations of the UCMJ. He deserves to go to jail for a period of time and be dishonorably discharged for his actions. However, he shouldn’t have been put through the solitary confinement and he shouldn’t have been charged with violations of the Espionage act. And any sane person that is knowledgeable about the US military and the UCMJ would agree with with this assessment.

Wolfy says:

When Ariel Sharon was over here trying to get bush jr. to “come protect us from that bad saddam”! I just knew the mossad gave him a list of statements that would play on jr’s religious beliefs. Sure enough the media started the demonization process. I knew that we were going for a ride at that point. Fucking tail wagging the dog again.. the entire US population and all the US treasure is has been dedicated to the services of Israel, by Israel. Fucking assholes. Manning is a Hero, in my book.

Anonymous Coward says:

you express surprise that he will be made an example of ?

really !!!!! ya think !!!

of course he will be made an example of, but he put it on himself when he made the decision to steal and release the information that he did.

Get over it, example or not, it is clearly not in dispute that he stole documents and released them, so he is clearly guilty of that change, he’s tried the whistle blower defence, and the judge told him to think again, and so he should, was there any legal action taken to anyone as the result of the released documents ??

IF NOT, then he clearly did not expose any crimes, or “blow the whistle on anyone” sure some of the things released were (or might of been) embarrassing to some, but nothing that led to any charged being filed on anyone.

The judge has done him a favour and has told him to forget the whistle blower defence because it wont fly, (because of the law, not because of Manning’s actions).

The judge could have not said anything, and waited until the defence was put forward in court, and then the judge throwing it out, leaving the defence council unprepared with a suitable case.

It’s going to be very difficult for manning and his lawyers to launch a defence that is anything that will show that manning did not remove and make available these documents.

It’s clear he is guilty of that act, for that he has no real defence, he either did it or he did not.. and in this case he did it.

You can try to justify it, but you cannot defend it, even Masnick should be able to understand that basic fact of law.

SO cry all you like about making him an example (he after all IS an example), and cry all you like about the legal system, but it is actually operating exactly how it should.

If you are caught with crack coke on you, you don’t have a defence that someone gave it to you, or that you did not know what it was. You can try to provide mitigating circumstances, but in a case like mannings there is little to mitigate what he has done.

So, as I said before he will get a long prison term, and really there is no question that he did what he did, and no real defence, so he (if he has any brains) accept a plea, that in part will be to provide the names of the agents that he provided that information too and the exact situation he did so.

If he is silly enough to try to fight it, he will be found guilty of the crimes HE DID COMMIT, there will be lots of charged because he broke many different laws. Including but not limited to military laws.

The legal system also takes a dim view of people who think they know better and take it upon themselves to take the law into their own hands.

This is what Manning was providing as his defence, a defence which is in itself not legal..

Again, his solicitors are moron’s for even trying to go this direction.

Does anyone believe he did not take the documents from the military ??? No. So therefore he has to answer to those charged, of which there are many.

He’ll get lots of time to think about it, and again if he had any brains he would work out he’s taking the fall for people like Assange.

I am sure, when offed a plea for less years prison if he provides full details of his (admitted beyond doubt) crimes. He might see freedom again in 10 or so years.

Again, what charges were made against anyone on the basis of the released documents ? NONE.. If none, how can he been seen as blowing the whistle of illegal activity ??

The judge is correct that he should not (and cannot) use this as a defence.

And trying to defend something you have admitted to doing wont help you.

But Masnick is the legal expert here, so he should be able to tell you the same thing. Seems like he still wants to try to justify his admitted actions with mitigating circumstances, expect they have failed to show what circumstances would mitigate the release of the documents.

Now, if 20 people were charged for crimes exposed by mannings stolen documents it might be different. Good luck trying to find them.

Whereas it would probably be quite easy to show circumstances or situations that the release of those documents damaged the US’s ability to fight it’s war, or damaged it’s diplomatic relations.

That is the same as aiding the enemy, that would be quiet trivial to prove, whereas it is impossible (without convictions based on the released docs) to prove that the release of the docs helped America and did not harm it in any way.

It’s all basic stuff, Masnick knows this (or should do).
I wonder why he wants to spin it some other way ?

Ven says:

“However, there are multiple other charges where he cannot raise his motive — including charges around whether or not he had “good faith” in releasing the documents…”

Wait, so he can’t use his state of mind or intentions in claiming “good faith”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that the entire damn definition of “good faith”?

Anonymous Coward says:

The other issue that Manning’s team appears to have lost on was their desire to show the lack of harm from all of the leaks. The court ruled that this really doesn’t matter in the trial, because it’s all after the fact, and Manning did not know beforehand the results and whether or not it resulted in harm. Of course, part of Manning’s defense is that he chose documents that would not cause harm on purpose — but the judge apparently disagreed.

There were more than a quarter million diplomatic cables alone. You can’t be suggesting that Manning read and understood the security implications of all of them and selective released more than 250,000?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Of course, part of Manning’s defense is that he chose documents that would not cause harm on purpose — but the judge apparently disagreed.

The judge disagreed because he knew that is a big fucking lie.

From CBS.com:

“Coombs said barring such evidence would cripple the defense’s ability to argue that Manning selectively leaked information he believed couldn’t help the enemy. Manning allegedly told an online confidant-turned-government informant, Adrian Lamo, that he leaked the material because “I want people to see the truth” and “information should be free.””

So no, according to witness statements. More likely, this kid was duped by Assange who be smoked out of his rathole one day to answer for his own actions.

Anonymous Coward says:

In great storms great captains are born.
In this one however the Justice ship is just meeting the bottom.

A theatrical court for a farcical justice system.

A reminder that we are far away from the true justice that we all long for, where people have fair trials and have a chance to tell their story.

WTF! how can a judge in a court system decide what defenses somebody can use?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You act like, by and large, random people are arrested and charged with random crimes. Overwhelming, people are arrested an charged because there’s cause to believe they violated a specific law with a specific act or acts. The trial is mostly whether those acts can be proved. And yes I realize that occasionally truly innocent people are charged and even convicted. But Manning sure as hell isn’t one of them.

al says:

If the other charges “require an objective standard” and therefore cannot be refuted with a whistle blower defense. Then there is no such thing as a whistle blower. The government has multiple charges that can be applied as they are in this case to anyone no matter how strong their whistle blower case may be if they release any document. therefore the judge is saying there is no protection for any whistle blower in any circumstance dealing with the US government. In other words if you possessed classified docs showing a conspiracy to kill the US president you could not defend against the charge that you: “wrongfully and wantonly caused to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the United States government.” So you are guilty of a crime no matter what. Nonsense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This has way too many ramifications, this gives the government the ability to crucify anyone that doesn’t agree with their secret policies.

If the government had secret interpretations of laws that were being used to subjegate and subdue it’s own citizens… you’d get thrown in jail for the rest of your life for warning people??

I don’t live there… but i’m starting to feel like i live far too close..

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a legal way (and protected) way to be a whistlebower in the DoD -

and Manning did not follow that. All the “informed” people here who say that people give up their rights in the military are full of it. The UCMJ, in my experience, has as much or more built in protections as any other legal system in the world. Manning broke the law. Pure and simple. He put lives at risk and maybe even caused some people to be killed. We won’t know that because the impact of what was released is classified because it could possibly aid the enemy. I won’t defend all the actions of my country because I don’t agree with them all. But the people here who are tearing it down should at least acknowledge that this discussion (which is perfectly legal here)could get you and your families killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries in the world. And heaven forbid that a female should be allowed to go to school. That offense carries a death sentence.
I don’t like the direction my country is going. It was caused by fear, so I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail in the future.

crade (profile) says:

“The court ruled that this really doesn’t matter in the trial, because it’s all after the fact, and Manning did not know beforehand the results and whether or not it resulted in harm. “

So let me get this straight, his motive isn’t important, but the actual results shouldn’t be taken into account either because they couldn’t have influenced his all important motive?

Anonymous Coward says:

There are specific valid defences for specific crimes, for example if you kill someone you are able to raise a valid defence that you killed the person in Self Defence, or if you are caught speeding in your car, you might have a defence that your breaks failed.

Whatever your defence it has to be a valid defence then you have to prove to the judge and court that that is actually what you did.

For the crime of stealing and distributing military and secret document (or classified docs), the defence of whistle blower is simply not a valid defence.

That is simply why the judge told him that simple fact.

If you kill someone and you say your defence is you did not like the person, that too is not a valid defence and you legally cannot use that defence to mitigate your actions.

It’s really that simple, it’s not a frame up or anything else, it’s a simple and basic fact, that his lawyers should have been fully aware of.

he should of tried a mental dysfunction and worked on a temporary insanity plea. That would be a defence and would have a better chance of mitigating his crimes.

But as his actions were clearly pre-meditated even the temporary insanity defence will not work, because you cannot premeditate temporary insanity.

So he is really screwed, he was fully aware of his actions, premeditated it, admitted it in chat’s what he was, is security cleared and his admission that he intends to take these actions.

What defence can you think of, he has as little knowledge of the possible damage caused (and added security risk) as anyone else.

There is no way he could of review all the documents that he released, and was/is certainly not qualified or able to determine if the content of these documents would aid the enemy, or damage the interests of the US.

So get over it, he/she clearly is a troubled person, he was fully aware that his actions could lead to a lengthy prison term, and admitted that again in chat rooms.

Whistle blowing is based on a SPECIFIC thing, or act, you cannot do a ‘blanket whistle blow’ saying “see how America sucks”.

He is also under military code and law, and yes you do give up your free speech rights with you sign your security clearance papers, you may also be restricted on who you know, and who you talk too, and what countries you visit (even on your own time). You accept this when you take the oath when you enlist.

You are also paid more if you hold a high level security cleared, you also give up a great deal of your privacy and your families privacy, your background is closed gone into.

He was fully aware of all these things, it’s clearly explained to him, and he admitted to this awareness in his chat logs.

His lawyers, need to convince him to take the plea, otherwise he’s screwed.. if he plea’s out he still is screwed but less so, he might actually get out of prison while he is still relatively young.

AnonCow says:

Maybe I’m being overly simplistic here, but shouldn’t any defendant be able to use any defense? It is the jury’s job to determine the validity of that defense. If not, why have a jury at all?

If I want to say that I thought I was helping my country or I want to say it was because aliens kidnapped and raped me, it should be my right to mount that defense.

Worst case, the judge could have addressed this in the jury instructions.

Now it just looks like Manning is getting railroaded.

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