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Manning's Co-Defendant is the Internet Itself

Bradley Manning Update: How to Commit Espionage Without Trying!

 

If it wasn't clear up to now, it was made crystal clear last week. The co-defendent in the Bradley Manning trial is the Internet itself.

In one of the case's most disturbing pre-trial hearings, Judge Col. Denise Lind ruled last week that prosecutors can offer as evidence files seized from Osama Bin Laden's computer as well as the testimony of a Navy Seal, part of the Bin Laden assasination team, who found them. His identity will not be revealed and the defense can cross-examine him only from a very specific and limited list of court-approved questions.

The ruling is important not only because it shows the almost unimaginable absurdity of the Manning case but because it reveals the true intent of the Obama Administration in pursuing it.
 

Bradley Manning and the Video -- fragment of a leaflet from the Georgia Green PartyBradley Manning and the Video -- fragment of a leaflet from the Georgia Green Party
 
The hearing was about the "standard of proof" necessary to prove two charges: espionage and aiding the enemy. It also took up what kinds of evidence would be permitted in the trial to support those charges.

According to the prosecutors, Manning committed espionage and aided the enemy by giving them important intelligence and he did that by putting it on the Internet. That's it; that's the crime. His real intent is irrelevant. The government is arguing that, if you put something on the Internet that some nefarious rascal downloads, you are effectively aiding that person materially in any "relevant" crime he or she might commit. It doesn't matter if there's no evidence that the person read it and no need to prove that you intended for him or her to retrieve it. Effectively, it makes the use of the Internet a potential crime.

Judge Lind ruled that to prove "espionage" you have to show that the defendent actually intended for this material to be read by the enemy; that was a defeat for the prosecution. But, she ruled, the government can pursue its theory to support the "aiding the enemy" charge.

One up and one down for Pvt. Manning. Two down for the rest of us. The Judge's decision is important for the trial but what's most important for all of us is what the Obama Admininstration is thinking and doing. It's now clear that the Administration believes that these very same acts and standards apply to both crimes. While the "aiding the enemy" charge only relates to military personnel, the "espionage" charge can be levelled at everyone and, while it failed to win the ruling in this case, it's clear that President Obama believes he can charge any of us with "espionage" for using the Internet as it's currently used.

For those who aren't familiar with this case or need an update, Pvt. Bradley Manning is a whistle-blower. Sometime in 2010, when he was working as an information technologist with the Army, Manning sent about 750,000 computer files to Wikileaks.

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