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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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2013 @ 6:48am

    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?

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