By Vladimir Gladkov
The story of Bradley Manning – the US soldier accused of leaking a cache of classified diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks once again takes a new twist. Just recently it seemed that Manning’s troubles were about to end, when the soldier’s defense attorney officially claimed that a White House review had found no real damage to national security in the soldier’s actions. However this statement was followed by a number of absurd claims, including concerns of investigating agents that Manning had been working for a foreign intelligence service. Now the situation has become even worse, after the investigating officer recommended that all 22 charges against the alleged WikiLeaks source should be referred to a general court martial – the strictest military trial. As a result, Manning is getting closer to the risk of spending the rest of his life in a military prison.
The claim, released by Manning’s lawyers at the end of 2011, gave new hope to Manning, his family and supporters. The court filing dispersed all of the accusations against the soldier, stating that all the information allegedly leaked by Manning had been either of low-importance or was already known due to previous public disclosures.
Manning’s lawyers also questioned two counts, accusing the soldier of adding authorized software to his computer, proving that it was a common practice for servicemen. This claim, backed by the testimony of Captain Casey Fulton – a senior officer in Manning’s “sensitive compartmented information facility” even had a chance to switch the attention from Manning to the failures of the US military, showing the unbelievably low level of security at a military intelligence unit. Such facts as leaving passwords to intelligence computers on Post-it notes raise some serious problems such as a total lack of security at the intelligence facilities and army incompetence.
However, the Pentagon demonstrated that it’s still not ready to give up on Manning. At the same time, the questions raised by the legal team, were completely ignored. The investigating team made a number of nearly absurd claims, including the ridiculous statement about Manning’s possible connection with UK’s intelligence. But now the is rapidly getting worse.
Colonel Paul Amanza – the investigating officer at last month’s hearing in Ford Meadle, Maryland – has reported to his superiors that that all 22 charges against Manning should be referred to a general court martial. In this case Manning has all the chances to end up locked for life in a military prison.
A final decision is expected to be made by Colonel Carl Coffman of the special court martial convening authority, who still has the option of passing it up the chain of command to Major General Michael Linnington.
Anyway, the current situation clearly demonstrates that a full military trial is awaiting Manning. It is going to be the arena of a final clash between Manning’s legal team and the US military elite and the Obama administration. US officials have already proved that they are intending to press for an extremely strict penalty for Manning, making him a tragic example for his possible followers.
However, a strict sentence for Manning represents a serious threat for the American government itself and, especially for the reputation of President Obama. Obama’s election promises to close the military prisons and fix the mistakes of his predecessor’s policy has never been fulfilled. Instead both the White House and Pentagon managed to made mockery of themselves and turn Private Manning into an international icon of rebellion. The questionable decision to treat a computer analyst as an international terrorist led to a number of scandals, including such an embarrassing incident as the resignation of State Department spokesman PJ Crowley who had described Manning’s treatment “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”. It is important to mention that Crowley still believed that Manning should be punished for what he had done.
Now when the White House is cornered by its own unreasonable moves, it has no chance to turn back. The US government, which never misses a chance to blame other counties for human rights violations, will be mercilessly pressing for the most severe punishment for Manning in a desperate attempt to save face.