The U.S. government claims it has proof that Pfc. Bradley Manning knew state secrets would fall into the hands of enemies of the United States after he allegedly passed thousands of documents to the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks.
Capt. Joe Morrow, one of five government prosecutors, said the government could show that Manning had knowingly “aided the enemy” by sending the documents to a “very definite place” where he knew enemy forces could get them. Manning’s lead defense lawyer, David Coombs, disputed the claim, saying he has seen no such evidence.
Beyond his individual future, the outcome of the debate on “aiding the enemy” has huge potential ramifications for future prosecutions involving the publication of leaks on the internet. As the American Civil Liberties Union recently pointed out, the US government is attempting to hold the soldier accountable for helping al-Qaida even though he allegedly passed information to a third party, in this case WikiLeaks.
If that standard applies, the ACLU warned, it could set a precedent in which “the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over any service member who gives an interview to a reporter, writes a letter to the editor, or posts a blog on the internet. In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its ‘success’ would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals.”