Manning: Well-intended naif vs. arrogant fame-seeker

In court-martial opening statements, defense and prosecution paint opposing pictures of the private

Published June 4, 2013 1:55PM (EDT)

During the opening statements of Pfc. Bradley Manning's court-martial Monday, the government prosecutors and the whistle-blower's defense made apparent the opposing pictures they intended to paint of the whistle-blower.

The government prosecutors, according to reporters present at Fort Meade, were direct in framing their argument behind the dangerous and far-reaching "aiding the enemy" charge levied against Manning." Capt. Joe Morrow, a military prosecutor, said Manning "dumped information on the Internet, into the hands of the enemy."

The prosecutor suggested that it was in search of "notoriety" and out of "self-interest" that Manning leaked thousands of government documents. Kevin Gosztola reported from the courtroom:'

He declared, “This is not a case about a government official” making discreet disclosures. It is a case about a soldier who “literally dumped” information on the Internet “into the hands of the enemy.” It is a case about “what happens when arrogance meets access to information.”

As noted here, the "aiding the enemy" (which carries life in prison without parole) is the historic crux of this trial. The Harvard constitutional law professor who taught the subject to President Obama has even spoken about against the charge in Manning's case. Via the Guardian:

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor who is considered to be the foremost liberal authority on constitutional law in the US and who taught the subject to President Barack Obama, told the Guardian that the charge could set a worrying precedent. He said: "Charging any individual with the extremely grave offense of 'aiding the enemy' on the basis of nothing beyond the fact that the individual posted leaked information on the web and thereby 'knowingly gave intelligence information' to whoever could gain access to it there, does indeed seem to break dangerous new ground."

Meanwhile, Manning's defense attorney's opening statements stressed that the young soldier was well-intentioned in leaking the documents, but possibly naive. Gosztola noted:

Coombs said Manning struggled not only with his obligation and duty to people but also with an internal struggle. This led him to decide he “needed to do something to make a difference in the world. He needed to do something to help improve what he was seeing .”

He began to select info that he believed “the public should hear and should see.” As Coombs said, “If public,” it would “make the world a better place.” And he specifically selected documents he believed could not be used “against the United States” and “could not be used” to the advantage of a foreign nation... “When he decided to release this information, he believed this information showed how we value human life. He was troubled by it and he believed if the American public saw it they too would be troubled by it and maybe things might change,” Coombs argued.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Aiding The Enemy Bradley Manning Bradley Manning Trial Court Martial Fort Meade Whistleblower Wikileaks