Lawyer: WikiLeaks cables did little harm
November 29th, 2011
01:37 PM ET

Lawyer: WikiLeaks cables did little harm

By Larry Shaughnessy

The lawyer for the U.S. Army private accused of leaking thousands of classified documents said in a court filing that the information in question did not do "any real damage to national security."

Next month, Pfc. Bradley Manning will be flown from the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Fort Meade, Maryland, where he'll appear at his first crucial pretrial hearing.

Manning's attorney, David Coombs, is requesting a number of items from the government as part of the mandatory pretrial discovery in the case, including full details on several investigations of the diplomatic cables Manning is suspected of leaking.

"The Department of State formed a task force of over 120 individuals to review each released diplomatic cable," Coombs wrote in the filing.  "The task force conducted a damage assessment of the leaked cables and concluded that the information leaked either represented low-level opinions or was already known due to previous public disclosures."

About a similar Department of Defense probe of the leaked cables, Coombs wrote, "The damage assessment concluded that all of the information allegedly leaked was either dated, represented low-level opinions, or was already commonly understood and known due to previous public disclosures."

The claims made by Coombs seem to fly in the face of dire comments about the leaks made by Department of Defense officials in June 2010, shortly after Manning's arrest.

"The battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners," then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said about the leaks.  They "may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world. Intelligence sources and methods, as well as military tactics, techniques and procedures, will become known to our adversaries."

Adm. Michael Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was even more serious.

"They might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family. Disagree with the war all you want, take issue with the policy, challenge me or our ground commanders on the decisions we make to accomplish the mission we've been given, but don't put those who willingly go into harm's way even further in harm's way just to satisfy your need to make a point," Mullen said of Manning and the people at WikiLeaks who published the items he is accused of leaking.

But while painting the leaks in the worst possible way, even back then, Gates was hinting that Manning's actions, if true, were not a dramatic threat to U.S. national security.

"Problems identified and the issues raised in these documents relating to the war in Afghanistan have been well known in and out of government for some time," Gates said in 2010.  "These documents represent a mountain of raw data and individual impressions, most several years old, devoid of context or analysis.  They do not represent official positions or policy. And they do not, in my view, fundamentally call into question the efficacy of our current strategy in Afghanistan."

Manning, a military intelligence analyst from Oklahoma, now faces a total of 34 charges in the case, including transmitting defense information, disclosing classified information concerning the national defense and giving intelligence to the enemy.

That final charge is perhaps the most serious, because it could lead to a death sentence if he's convicted.

Manning is due at Fort Meade on December 16, for an Article 32 hearing. That's a military version of a civilian arraignment, but unlike a civilian hearing it often includes a considerable amount of testimony and presentation of evidence. This hearing is scheduled to last several days.

Afterwards, a military officer will decide if Manning will face a court-martial.

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Filed under: Legal • WikiLeaks
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. J.

    Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Gandhi was a terrorist. Dr. King was a terrorist. Michael x was a communist and a terrorist. Manny is a terrorist. But George Bush is not a criminal. Next thing you know, mother Teresa was a traitor for feeding the poor. How much does it cost to go and live on mercury? Whoever disagree with anything wrong and seeks the interest of the masses is a capital criminal posing a Great threat to the elite holy money lovers!!! Smh

    November 30, 2011 at 11:51 am | Reply
  2. Dave

    What about GB he lied to whole country to go to war against Iraq and wasted trillions of dollors.

    November 30, 2011 at 11:19 am | Reply
  3. UnluckyEddy

    As a Veteran I have this to say. He should be given a cigarette, a nice shady wall to lean against for the rest of his life.

    November 30, 2011 at 10:17 am | Reply
    • A real person

      Cigarettes can kill, the truth will set you free, just like so many others in the military you have obviously been programmed, you are just another sheep in flock taking orders still. Sad really. Some of us like to think for ourselves and Bradely has shown much honor and bravery coming forward with things that we all should be aware of but many like yourself like to bury them.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:26 am | Reply
      • UnluckyEddy

        Oh he wouldn't have to worry about dying by lung cancer, its lead poisoning that he should be afraid of.

        As for being programed I have not. His actions could have gotten my brothers and sisters in arms killed and he is a traitor.

        November 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • kayjulia

      First prosecute the liars who started this illegal war and broke international treaties and are responsible for tens of thousands of innocent lives being killed for what? Nothing. Then we can take a look at this young man and see if he is this thing you call traitor. Until the organizers of this war and their friends stand trial this young man should be discharged and allowed to go about his business, he was/is not the problem. The liars and schemers are the problem and few will believe it and none will do anything about it. Start with Bush and Chaney two war criminals who should be tried by the world court in the Netherlands like other despots.

      November 30, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  4. marius marionis

    TO KILL STEFANO DODARO AND FAMILY with electronic bombardments , via amendola SIDERNO (RC) via Amendola +39 0964 381203 +39 0964 381344 italy

    November 30, 2011 at 5:29 am | Reply
  5. Sodoff Wanker

    Finally, the majority of comments aren't ultralib drivel. If he is indeed guilty, then PFC Manning is a traitor in the highest degree. He swore an oath and casually violated it.

    If he felt he was party to some illegal act or in possession of some material, he could have notified his superior officer/NCO. Failing that, he could have notified his 1SG or CO. Failing that he could have continued up the chain. Failing that, he could have notified Army CID/Provost Marshal. Failing that he could have notified the local Inspector General's office. Failing that, heck, maybe he could have even talked to a Chaplain. My point is, he should have kept CLASSIFIED MATERIAL IN HOUSE! ANY AND OR ALL OF THOSE INDIVIDUALS HAVE A LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY TO ACT WHEN A CRIME OR LOAC VIOLATION HAS BEEN COMMITTED! Blindly releasing hundreds of thousands of classified documents DOES PUT LIVES IN DANGER. Enough information from enough sources can be put together to deduce operations, tactics/techniques/procedures, troop locations/movements, etc etc. And let's not forget how PFC Manning was originally caught. A hacker he was trying to impress turned him in! PFC Manning had no altruistic motives at all! Burn him. He's the reason he's made the jobs of so many other loyal military and intelligence professionals so hard.

    November 29, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Reply
    • You Missed A Scenario, Bro

      What do you do when the entire chain above you, right up to your president, is corrupt?

      You tell someone who isn't, that's what.

      Alternatively, you can stand around and do nothing while your country murders and pillages random people on the other side of the planet. Yeah, your country is compiling an endless list of national enemies, and yeah, your country is digging itself a gargantuan hole of debt it cannot possibly hope to repay. But you've still got food, a roof and television, so why not just ignore it? Honestly, that's what most of us would do. That's what all of our parents did.

      Thanks for making my world so fucked up.

      November 30, 2011 at 4:54 am | Reply
    • Chris

      The Soldier signed a contract with the Government that predates any of our current leaders. For those who don't know, all intelligence personnel in the U.S. Army must sign a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA) which prohibits exactly what this Soldier did. Imprisonment and fines are punishments under this contract. This Soldier signed the agreement and broke the law. He should be prosecuted like any criminal.

      November 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  6. donna

    The damage or benefits gained from Wikileaks is irrelavant as perhaps the most surprising and confusing aspect of all this is that Assange didn't leak the material. He was not the source for these files, he merely published them. Where once, the focus was on the whistleblower, it's now on the technological conduit by which the whistleblower can reach the world. The important questions we need to ask now are not about Mr. Assange’s moral qualities, or his motives, or whether his actions were constructive or destructive. Julian Assange, after all, is just one person, just as flawed and mortal as the rest of us. It is the technologies we use, in their present very flawed implementations, that have made these or similar information losses inevitable. If the perpetrator had not been Mr. Assange, it would have been someone else, in some different but related form, taking advantage of the current massive insecurity of electronic records, which is a change of circumstances in the world. Of course I don’t want my secrets exposed but I am a private citizen not a state. I have a right to my privacy. There are no international laws for state privacy. And if it even came to some one exposing my lies of course I would not like it because I would be exposed as a liar and as a cheat. I would have no defense other than to try to stop that person by force even though it would be unethical and wrong of me. That’s just what is happening now. There are no laws to prosecute wikileaks so they are being forced to stop. So I say expose the unethical even though it might some day be my turn. That’s the basic tenet under which all laws work. Plus, there are laws against hacking but wikileaks did not commit a crime in obtaining the cables. They were handed the cables in violation of no law. The useful questions now are about how we manage to cope with a world where no one — not even government — is guaranteed to have any privacy. In the aftermath of this drastic loss of confidential information, safeguards will of course be put into place to prevent another incident of this particular kind. But no security measure available in the near-term future can change the fact that our lives and our businesses are increasingly stored and available online, where their vulnerability to attack is far higher than they were with the older forms of paper record-keeping.

    November 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Reply
    • Don

      Please learn how to paraphrase. Manning did violate a law, as a military member he broke the non-disclosure agreement he signed saying he would not give classified information to someone not holding a security clearance (a tenet of Military Law). As for wikileaks getting prosecuted, that is not the issue, nor do i think they will be. The financial embargo they are facing is good enough punishment for them.

      November 30, 2011 at 6:59 am | Reply
  7. boskoo

    No Harm ????
    Probably not, but treason is treason.
    Hang him.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Reply
    • Nisroc

      If I was an American i would be happy he leaked these documents as it it tells the Americans about the Horror story Bush worte. Still funny how Bush is not considered a war criminal.

      November 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Reply
      • UnluckyEddy

        He is a trator and should be treated in accordance. He betrayed his oaths and his country. If you were an American and you had done that you would deserve the same fate instore for him.

        November 30, 2011 at 10:23 am |
      • Riadh

        ljmeyers17 on November 7, 2011 @IMissBritneyAlexI Well it ended may 5th and oppele are still posting their comments, wasn't trying to be offensive, just helpful

        March 3, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  8. markodavid

    Bradly Manning is a hero.You dolts who think America is threatened are small brained and still cold war monkeys.Patriotism is a barbaric relic.And if you don't believe it as any Banker or or milti national Corp CEO.Those people are not as easily fooled.Real crimes that effect you are going unpunished.Wall street is striping your wallet while you seek a whistle blower to blame for a crumbling America.I feel sorry for your families.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Reply
    • Don

      Patriotism is barbaric.....REALLY? Other crimes are going unpunished, so what you are saying let all crimes go unpunished.....REALLY?

      You don't like our country, you are FREE to leave anytime.

      November 30, 2011 at 6:53 am | Reply
  9. RichM

    Strip him of American citizenship and put him in a boat to drift.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  10. Mick

    Even if he leaked the lunch menu at the Whitehouse. If it's classified it's betrayal of the utmost degree. There's no such thing as a 'little bit of misuse of responsibility.' He made and broke a solemn oath..

    That having been said, let's give him due process of law, IE: give him the rights and privileges that he ignored and spat in the face of.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  11. UraDoofus

    Little damage control there my attorney? There wasn't any significant value in what your client leaked so there wasn't a crime? Your client is a sniveling little traitor who should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Reply

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