On Wednesday, 22 additional charges were filed against Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused of passing thousands of secret government documents to WikiLeaks. Among the new charges was ‘aiding the enemy.’ Who this ‘enemy’ is, was not first made clear by the army and there was speculation that the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks was meant. On Thursday, the New York Times reports that the military said that ‘the enemy’ refers to ‘instead referred to any hostile forces that could benefit from learning about classified military tactics and procedures.’
Manning was arrested by the Army after revealing that he had leaked video of a helicopter attack that killed two Reuters photographers and Iraqi civilians, and also some 260,000 diplomatic cables and intelligence reports.
According to the March 3 New York Times, the other charges filed against him include ‘wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it was accessible to the enemy; multiple counts of theft of public records, transmitting defense information and computer fraud.’ If convicted, Manning could face life in prison. While a military statement says that ‘aiding the enemy’ can be a capital offense, ‘the prosecution team had decided against recommending the death penalty in this case,’according to the New York Times.
David House, a researcher at MIT who is one of very few people to have visited Manning in prison, told the Firedoglake news website that the “aiding the enemy” charge was similar to Richard Nixon’s heavy-handed treatment of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Nixon called Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America” and said he was “providing aid and comfort to the enemy”.
“Today we see the Obama administration continuing the legacy Nixon started by declaring whistleblowers as enemies of the state. It is a sad and dangerous day for transparency advocates everywhere,” House said.
Manning has also been charged with “adding unauthorized software” to the secret computer system twice once between February and early April 2010, and again on May 4; the software was used to “extract classified information.”
Since July, Manning has been held for in solitary confinement in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. He is being held as a maximum security detainee under a special set of restrictions intended to prevent self-injury, though his supporters say that he is not suicidal. Manning is confined to his cell 23 hours a day, with one hour to exercise in an empty room, and largely isolated from human contact; his supporters who have visited him say that his mental condition is deteriorating seriously, and even dangerously.
On Wednesday New York Times says that, according to Manning’s lawyer, David E. Coombs, his client was stripped and left naked in his cell for seven hours, the day the 22 additional charges were announced.
The soldier’s clothing was returned to him Thursday morning, after he was required to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection, Mr. Coombs said in a posting on his Web site.
“This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification,” Mr. Coombs wrote. “It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated. Pfc. Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight. No other detainee at the brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.”
First Lt. Brian Villiard, a Marine spokesman, said a brig duty supervisor had ordered Private Manning’s clothing taken from him. He said that the step was “not punitive” and that it was in accordance with brig rules, but he said that he was not allowed to say more.
“It would be inappropriate for me to explain it,” Lieutenant Villiard said. “I can confirm that it did happen, but I can’t explain it to you without violating the detainee’s privacy.”
House, Manning’s friend, contends that he is ‘being pressured to cooperate.’
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