"They have overcharged" – Wiki-leaker hearing day 7
December 22nd, 2011
02:38 PM ET

"They have overcharged" – Wiki-leaker hearing day 7

From Larry Shaughnessy in Ft. Meade, MD

(Read also: Bradley Manning and the need to share)

238p update -"unfettered access" for the enemy
Pfc. Bradley Manning's attorney told the officer overseeing his case Thursday that the Army prosecutors have overcharged the young soldier, accused of the largest intelligence leak in American history.  (See the rest of our Bradley Manning coverage here)

"Provide the U.S. government with a reality check," David Coombs asked in his closing arguments. "Tell them, they have overcharged in this case."

But Capt. Ashden Fein, the lead prosecutor, said all the charges are justified and that Manning "gave the enemy of the United States unfettered access to" the classified documents he leaked.

Manning currently faces 22 charges and potentially a death sentence or life in prison without parole if convicted of all of them.

Coombs argued that the charge of "knowingly giving intelligence to the enemy" should be thrown out because there is no evidence that harm came from the leaks.

He said the U.S. government, beginning with former Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, acted like "Chicken Little" yelling that "the sky is falling."

Shortly after Manning's arrest in 2010, Morrell told reporters at a Pentagon briefing "it appears that someone - if not multiple people - violated the trust and confidence bestowed on them by their country and leaked classified information; which not only is against the law but potentially endangers the well-being of our forces and potentially jeopardizes our operations."

Coombs also said all five charges connected to Manning's alleged altering government computers to download the documents he's accused of leaking should be tossed out.

Manning allegedly put unauthorized software on his computer. But Coombs said Manning's entire unit was very lax when it came to computer security or information assurance.

"It was a lawless unit when it comes to information assurance," Coombs said, in reference to testimony that all soldiers in the unit had added unauthorized software to their computers.

Coombs also argued that the 16 charges under the military law outlawing conduct "prejudicial to good order and discipline" should be reduced to just three charges.

If the investigating officer who oversaw the hearing, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, were to follow Coombs request, Manning's maximum possible penalty, instead of life in prison or a possible death sentence, would be reduced to 30 years.

He argued Manning wasn't leaking information to the enemy but was letting Americans know what was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"A hallmark of a democracy is the ability of government to be open with the public. Let's start that today," Coombs said. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

When Fein began presenting the prosecution closing argument he said Manning "abused our trust. Evidence in this case is overwhelming"

Fein went methodically through each charge, linking Manning or his computers to the leaked materials, or chats with Julian Assange, the founder of the Wikileaks website or Adrian Lamo, the convicted former hacker who acted as a confidential informant for Army investigators around the time of Manning's arrest.

For example, Fein cited chat logs that he said were of an online discussion between Manning and Assange discussing the upload 700 Guantanamo Bay detainee interrogation reports.

Manning said the upload had been going for about six hours and was about 36% complete. Assange asked how long until the upload would be complete, and Manning estimated about 11-12 more hours.

Assange later confirmed the upload was complete.

WikiLeaks published the 700 Guantanamo reports earlier this year.

Near the end of the arguments, the prosecution presented a video from al Qaeda bragging that it had access to the WikiLeak documents, sometimes referring to WikiLeaks by name.

Fein said Manning repeatedly read and even downloaded and leaked an Army document that specifically spelled out how the enemy, including al Qaeda, used WikiLeaks to learn about U.S. tactics and procedures.

The prosecution also said Manning had seven times signed "non-disclosure" agreements spelling out that disclosing classified material is a violation of federal law.

Fein argued that each and every charge is justified saying, "Manning's absolute indifference" to rules regarding classified documents "brings discredit upon Armed Forces."

After the prosecution finished its closing arguments, Almanza ended the hearing, which stretched over the past seven days, including last weekend.

Almanza will now consider the testimony and evidence and make a recommendation as to whether Manning should face court martial and if so, on which charges.

The burden of proof at this level of the military justice system is "whether reasonable grounds exist to believe that the accused committed the offenses alleged."

The Special Court Martial Convening Authority, Col. Carl Coffman, has given Almanza until Jan. 16, 2012 to submit his recommendation. But if needed, Almanza can request more time.

The actual decision about whether Manning will face court martial rests with the General Court Martial Convening Authority, Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington, commander of the Military District of Washington.


The Article 32 hearing for Bradley Manning, accused of stealing and disseminating hundreds of thousands of documents, has finished. The investigating officer has until January 16th to provide his recommendations to the Court Martial Convening Authority.

“Manning gave enemies of the United States unfettered access to those documents,” said Capt. Ashton Fine, the lead prosecuting attorney, in his closing remarks. (See the rest of our Bradley Manning coverage here)

“You are in a unique position to provide the US government with a reality check,” Manning’s lawyer David Coombs told the investigating officer. “Tell them they have overcharged in this case.”

Post by:
Filed under: Bradley Manning • WikiLeaks
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  74. wharf0rat

    Bradley Manning is a real hero. Not one of those so-called "heroes" who blindly follows the orders of war criminals. We should have a parade for Manning for exposing the truth. Bush, Cheney & Rumsfeld should be in prison awaiting trial for war crimes.

    December 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  75. Clinton

    This Kid is a traitor and as such deserves to be executed. The courts will likely give him life in prison to avoid the controversy but i believe he should be executed by firing squad. If you're dissatisifed with the Country you live in, leave it... if you have a problem with the US Government, then don't become a soldier because you're working directly for them you stupid Traitorous moron... Our secrets are classified for a reason, not because the Government wants to hide things, because we want to keep information that our enemies could use against us secret so we don't end up getting more innocent civilians killed.... People always say, well the leaks didn't really get anybody killed... Oh yeh? first off how do you know? second... this kid had no idea what he was giving away, it could have ended up being vital information our enemy could have used against us... it's pathetic for morons to say he shouldn't be punished... the Government has classified information that they need to protect from everybody... you can't just run around telling the world about nuclear technologies or explaining our military tactics or whatever... people die that way... This guy should be punished and in my opinion the true punishment for a traitor like this is Death and that is what he should get.

    December 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  76. David30303

    Pvt Manning committed the unpardonable sin of embarrassing the government especially the folks at Foggy Bottom.
    For this, and this only, he must be sacrificed – the same way Capt. McVay, and many others have been.

    December 23, 2011 at 8:47 am | Reply
    • Clinton

      Embarrassed the Government? That's what you think this is about David30303 you idiot? Do you realize the harm that can be done to this country with Secret material being released by some random idiot? Do you even understand the definition of Classified material? are you just some friggin idiot that likes to spout ridiculous claims about conspiracies? that's what it looks like... Morons like you don't understand how easily leaks can end in Soldiers and indeed innocent civilians getting killed... you're too small minded to understand i suppose there's no point in explaining it to a dunce like you.

      December 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  77. J. Pollard the zionist spy American Traitor

    Pvt. Manning should tell the government he's a zionists with dual israeli and American citizenships – If he does, he won't rot in jail – He may serve 10 years and then he'll be released, flown to israel and be treated as a hero like I, Jonathan Pollard the America Spy and Traitor will be doing once Bibi gets me out of jail next year.

    Spying is good business if you are a traitor zionists. Heck, when I get to israel, I will be a millionaire, paid with U.S. tax dollars that our governments sends to israel. The israelis will use that money by giving it to me. Yeah! I will flip my middle finger at the rest of you goyim Americans while I will be freeeeeee!

    Like I said, being a zionist AIPAC spy has its rewards.

    israel forever! and like Obama said, the U.S. taxpayers will pay israel $3 billions dollars a year FOREVER!!

    I love how we control America.

    Jonathan Pollard

    December 23, 2011 at 7:09 am | Reply
    • Rick

      Frankly I doubt the real Jonathan Pollard would write such a thing. From everything I have read about the real Jonathan Pollard and from the real Jonathan Pollard, who did what he did for ideological reasons, this person claiming to be Mr. Pollard really should do his homework before he purports to be someone and something he is not.

      December 23, 2011 at 11:03 am | Reply
  78. BluPanda

    We have a right to know these things. and if my government will not give them to me, i will take them.

    December 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Reply
    • Clinton

      You're F-ing stupid BluPanda, You don't have a "right" to know these things.... do you have any idea how dangerous it is to release classified material to the world? What if it was battle plans that were released? Security operations information maybe? How about Nuclear secrets you idiot, do you think every idiot in the world deserves to have all our Government's knowledge of these things? you're so stupid it's ridiculous... i can hardly understand idiots like you that have no clue what the world is like beyond maybe your mom's basement... now go eat some more chips and play video games you fat loser.

      December 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Reply

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