Nel's New Day

July 30, 2013

Manning’s Sentence: What People in the U.S. Value

A military judge at Fort Meade (MD) found Army PFC Bradley Manning, 25, not guilty of aiding the enemy but guilty of 20 other counts, including five espionage charges under the 1917 Espionage Act. The judgment against him for providing documents to WikiLeaks could give him a jail term of up to 136 years.  Free speech organization Index on Censorship condemned the guilty verdicts.

“Manning is a whistleblower who leaked files in order to inform the world about what really happened during the Iraq War to no personal gain. The US government should abide by its duty to protect whistleblowers who speak out in the public interest.”

Today is the same day that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants declared as National Whistleblower Day in honor of the first whistleblower law passed on July 30, 1778—235 years ago. Grassley believes in prosecuting people from the United States who may violate the law in order to tell the truth, but the senator helped create a law to protect a Swiss security guard who revealed private documents from a Swiss mega-bank,

The first whistleblower protection act stated that it was the “duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by an officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”

It was passed unanimously in response to a whistleblower, Marine Captain John Grannis, who presented a petition to the Continental Congress on March 26, 1777, to have a commander of the Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, suspended after he tortured captured British sailors. After Hopkins retaliated against Grannis and two others, Midshipman Samuel Shaw and Third Lieutenant Richard Marven, Marven and Shaw petitioned the Continental Congress. They claimed that they had been arrested because they had done “what they then believed and still believe was nothing but their duty.” The Continental Congress not only agreed with the two men but also decreed that the United States pay for the defense of the two men.

If Manning had gone to Congress with his information, he would have lost his security clearance for trying to give testimony that included evidence of torture and other war crimes. Congress would have buried his information the way that they have done to other illegal actions the government has committed.

Manning’s “leaks” included:

  • The “Afghan War Logs” showed an assassination squad, Task Force 373, and its mission on June 17, 2007, staking out a Koran where a “prominent al Qaeda functionary” might be located. The squad killed seven children with five U.S. rockets but not the al Qaeda member.
  • The “Iraq War Logs” revealed an order, Frago 242, in which the U.S. military arranged to have Iraqi military or security forces to torture prisoners but not take responsibility because U.S. service members did not actively participate.
  • U.S. interrogators threatened Iraqi detainees with being turned over to the “Wolf Brigade” or “Wolf Battalion” which would “subject” them “to all the pain and agony that the Wolf Battalion is known to exact upon its detainees.”
  • Over 250,000 US diplomatic cables revealed U.S. diplomats spying on United Nations leadership, the Yemen president agreed to secretly allow U.S. cruise missile attacks that he would say were launched by his government, U.S. and China cooperating to obstruct a major agreement on climate change by European countries, the FBI training torturers in Egypt’s state security service, both the administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama pressuring Spain and Germany not to investigate torture authorized by Bush administration officials, and foreign contractors managed by DynCorp hiring Afghan boys to dress up as girls and dance for them.
  • Over 700 detainee assessment reports on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay showed imprisonment of children and elderly men were imprisoned.

Manning pled guilty to some offenses before trial. If prosecutors had accepted the plea instead of trying to convict him of “aiding the enemy,” he would have been in prison for 20 years. Prosecutors also tried to convince the judge that Manning could be judged guilty even if he had no intent to provide any aid. Manning’s civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, argued, “No case has ever been prosecuted under this type of theory, that an individual by the nature of giving information to a journalistic organization would then” be charged with “aiding the enemy.”

Basically, the prosecution wanted a death sentence for giving information to the press as a method of stopping any whistleblowers.

Thus far, seven others have been charged under the Espionage Act during President Obama’s administration. Before 2010, only 3 previous leakers had ever been saddled with charges under the 1917 Espionage Act. The law was created during World War I to stop any dissent against the war. Stephen Kim, a former State Department employee, was charged with violating the Espionage Act after he allegedly told Fox News reporter James Rosen that North Korea might test a nuclear bomb.. The judge declared that prosecutors didn’t have to prove that the information could be damaging to the U.S. or “advantage a foreign nation,” turning the law into an anti-leaks law without any Congressional action.

Manning’s sentence will tell the people of the world of the U.S. military’s response to different crimes. These are some other military sentences:

  • Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib and the senior officer present the night of the murder of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi, received no jail time. He was reprimanded and fined $8,000.
  • Sgt. Sabrina Harman, seen giving a thumbs-up next to al-Jamadi’s body and photographed smiling next to naked, hooded Iraqis stacked on each other in Abu Ghraib, was sentenced to six months for maltreating detainees.
  • Spec. Armin Cruz was sentenced to eight months for abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib and covering up the abuse.
  • Spc. Steven Ribordy was sentenced to eight months for being accessory to the murder of four Iraqi prisoners who were “bound, blindfolded, shot and dumped in a canal” in Baghdad in 2007.
  • Spc. Belmor Ramos was sentenced to seven months for conspiracy to commit murder in the same case.
  • Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for committing the four Baghdad murders. The military then granted him clemency and reduced his sentence to 20 years, with parole possible after seven.
  • Marine Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich received no jail time for negligent dereliction in the massacre of 24 unarmed men, women and children in 2005 in the Iraqi town of Haditha. Seven other members of his battalion were charged, but none was punished.
  • Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate and Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson were both sentenced to 21 months for the aggravated assault of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, a father of 11 and grandfather of four, in Al Hamdania in 2006. Awad died after being shot during the assault. Their sentences were later reduced.
  • Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington was sentenced to eight years for the same incident, but served only a few months before being granted clemency and released from prison.
  • Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III was sentenced to 15 years for murder in the Awad case but his conviction was soon overturned and he was released.
  • No soldiers received any punishment for the killing of five Iraqi children, four women and two men in one Ishaqi home in 2006. Among the U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by Bradley Manning was email from a UN official stating that U.S. soldiers had “executed all of them.”

Manning’s case goes beyond a soldier making decisions without authority. It has evolved into the possibility that the government will continue to successfully conceal corruption for decades.  Officials and legislators define whether people who expose crimes, abuse, or corruption are whistleblowers or criminals, depending on whether these government higher-ups have a vested interested in hiding their illegal actions. People are not generally celebrated if they confront U.S. involvement in wars, government methods of conducting foreign policy, spying on other countries, and violating freedom and human rights throughout the world.

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