US Army: alleged Wikileaks source Manning faces 52 years

Illustration: Rob Beschizza

Earlier today, Boing Boing reported news that the U.S. has filed formal charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old Army Intelligence Specialist who is believed to have leaked damning classified data to Wikileaks. The "charge sheet" published on Boing Boing specified 8 federal criminal violations, including one identified as a violation of the Espionage Act. I spoke to Lieutenant Colonel Eric Bloom of the U.S. Army's Public Affairs Office for more. The Army won't confirm that Manning leaked anything to Wikileaks, or that he obtained and transmitted "260,000 State department cables," the specific number widely reported— but the Army charge sheet released today does say the 22-year-old engaged in "conduct being prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces," which threatened to "bring discredit upon the armed forces."

Boing Boing/Xeni Jardin: What are the maximum penalties in Manning's case, based on the charges filed today? Do any of these charges carry the possibility of capital punishment?

U.S. Army/Ltc. Eric Bloom: No, I don't think we're talking about the death penalty. We have calculated the maximum possible number of years based on these charges to be 52 years.

Boing Boing: So, the organization he is said to have leaked all of this classified information to, Wikileaks

Bloom: We have not said that he has leaked all of this material. We have not confirmed that. And that organization is not named in the charges.

Boing Boing: Okay, understood. So, the organization others have reported that Manning leaked videos and State Department cables to, Wikileaks, I'm reading that they've said they have attempted to connect Manning with a lawyer, with civilian legal representation, but that those attempts have been rebuffed. Is he represented by any civilian attorney?

Bloom: We have no knowledge of any civilian attorneys he has retained. He is free to do so at any time. I do not know of any rebuffing. I've been in the military for 26 years, and I've never heard of any party's attempt to secure legal representation being denied. We don't rebuff representation.

Boing Boing: What happens next?

Bloom: As part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the next step in proceedings would be an Article 32 Hearing, which is similiar to a grand jury. An investigating officer will be appointed, and that officer looks into all facts of the matter, does an investigation, and upon conclusion, the findings will be presented to a convening court martial authority. The division commander will consider based on what is in that, what the next steps are. Either there is enough evidence or not enough evidence to proceed to a court-martial.

Boing Boing: Where is Manning currently detained?

Bloom: He is Kuwait at Camp Arifjan.

Boing Boing: When will the next step in the proceedings take place?

Bloom: A date has not yet been set. We haven't even identified the investigating officer. We're still in the early stages of this case.

# # #

This response to the charges against Manning appeared on the Wikileaks Twitter account today:

Private Manning charged with disclosing iraq-slaughter video. Trigger happy Apache crew remain uncharged.

manningcharge.jpg"Charge sheet" for Pfc. Bradley E. Manning: Read the entire document here.


  1. I believe the ironic “introducing famous washed-up actor” joke is in fact the intellectual property of Robert Rodriguez.

  2. Rather than just list the maximum possible sentence, somebody should go through the federal sentencing guidelines and try to see what a LIKELY penalty would be. The difference can be HUGE.

    1. Federal Sentencing guidelines end up producing a fairly narrow band for any given combination of offenses. I think it’s no more than about a +/- 20% band. So it depends on what charges they push for, what charges they drop (they’ll drop some stuff when the plea bargain comes in), and on any criminal record (although I assume the kid was clean).

      My guess is that 52 years is just dead center total on all the charges he faces.

  3. I pray that whoever he doesn’t end up in prison, but if he does, he ends up with somebody sympathetic to his cause, and they start a army-prison riot; which consequently is the name of my next band.

  4. It looks like you spelled Jan Micheal’s name wrong. Though, this could be ironic as well….

  5. A question I’ve never seen answered is – why did that hacker out this guy in the first place? Does he have some sort of hard-on for whistleblowers?

    1. From what I’ve read, The hacker has had some problems of his own and was afraid he was being set up in order to get busted again.

  6. The TSA / DHS has a new policy “see it, say it”
    ie “If You See Something, Say Something”

    That’s what Manning did.

    Folks in glass empires shouldn’t fly drones

  7. assuming he didn’t leak anything that actually threatened national security / our troops, and really only leaked the video — he’s not guilty of espionage , but of being a hero.

  8. People who live in a democratic republic shouldn’t throw stones at the institutions that allow them to do so.

    So far, everything about Manning says that he abused the clearance he was given, broke the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and may very well have leaked state secrets.

    So much for his oath:

    “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

    Yep. Pretty much wiped his backside with it.

    1. Yeah, who does this guy think he is? Doesn’t he know you can only get away with treason if you are a New York Times reporter. or one of their “sources”?

    2. >> Yep. Pretty much wiped his backside with it.

      You could not be more wrong.

      The president and the same officers referenced in that oath are subordinate to the Constitution. If those individuals violate the Constitution, they fall under the category of enemies domestic.

      Them. Not Manning.

      You need to take some time to ruminate on the true meaning of that oath and the hierarchy of responsibility outlined within. Manning is in the right and those criminals who he exposes to the American people are not patriots nor worthy of obedience or respect.

      Allegedly we do not reside in a monarchy. Manning does not owe allegiance to our CEO-in-chief, nor his puppets and he never made an oath to that effect. Rather, he owes allegiance to the principles of transparency to every fellow citizen, as citizen to citizen, not as vassal to monarch. The same citizens who put their children and themselves in harm’s way for the enrichment of a few.

      You would side with the liars and betrayers of our democratic ideals?

    3. “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

      Take the time to read what you cut and paste.

    4. “People who live in a democratic republic shouldn’t throw stones at the institutions that allow them to do so.”

      I disagree. Critical skepticism is far more suited to a democratic republic than loyalty, given the propensity of humans to become corrupted by power.

      “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.” –Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams

    5. I’m very happy that you posted the oath.
      Would you like me to break down how every Military member is guilty of treason for not defending the Constitution from the domestic terrorist attempting to undermine it?

      If your going to throw stones be fully aware of who and what the military is truly defending, because it ain’t the people, or at least the common citizen! Our country is not a Socialist or communist government, but with all the free handouts for votes that our military protects every day you would swear it was.

      The men and women of our Military are dieing for control purposes, and not that great cry of freedom every politician and military brass claims. Terrorism isn’t a game of football with sidelines, rules, and a refereeing party. The retaliation should have been a slow strategic adventure not ground pound-ers reshaping the land scape. That unprofessional display of small factions within the Military act in a way that is not Representative of the military are swept under the rug, and that’s why we should have never entered either one of these countries in the manner we did.

      I’m not calling this kid a hero, but those other non-hero’s need to get what they really deserve too.

  9. If he goes to jail for leaking a video of soldiers slaughtering civilians (with a few resistors in between), then what happens to those trigger happy soldiers that couldn’t wait to blow them to smitherines?

  10. evilpyrate- One argument for what Manning did was that he believed he was defending the US Constitution from a domestic enemy in the form of the Pentagon. Also, the UCMJ says soldiers don’t have to obey illegal orders, Ie, committing war crimes or conspiring to cover up war crimes. Now, the question is, will that fly with a jury made up of Military Officers?

    1. And releasing how many classified documents about our diplomatic positions with various countries is defending the US Constitution from whom?

      He *might* manage to get a pass on the video. However, he blew it on the rest.

      It’s amazing to me how few people see what a violation of the public trust this guy has perpetrated.

  11. so at what point do we all agree that this system does not work and try to flush it down the toilet along with the kronies???

  12. To anyone out there young enough to consider enlisting, this is exhibit A as to why you never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER-EVER-EVER join the military. Once you do, you cease to become a United States citizen. You become property of a parallel nation and subject to “military justice” which is a euphemism for “we fucking own you body and soul.”

    The so-called tribunals which mete out justice are just rubber stamps for whatever railroading process best suits a particular political entity. You are fodder on the battlefield for the career enhancement of a few and you are fodder off the battlefield. You are less than nothing, not a human. A chit to be traded or discarded.

    I support Manning in exercising his duty to the American people, but his first mistake was entering into a business relationship with the American military which has never been worthy of trust. They will do with him as the whim dictates. There is no appeal process nor mechanism to rescue him and the people are indifferent.

    He should have sought political asylum in one of the few remaining nations on this planet not in the pocket of the United States. Assange had better watch his back. My nation kills without remorse.

    1. I joined the military during the Reagan years, and eventually, after the implanted tracking devices eventually went on the fritz, my black-clad government monitors let me vote for Obama.

      (Agents Gerber and Zwieback, it was okay to say that, right? Oh please, PLEASE not the probe again!!!)

      No worries, that’s just a long way of asking you to get a grip on reality.

  13. Did you perchance ask whether any of the military personnel involved in this incident are being investigated as well?

  14. @evilpyrate

    You can’t possibly pass judgement on the “…violation of the [American] public[‘s] trust…” that Manning allegedly perpetrated as you don’t and can’t know what is contained in those cables. None of us can (‘us’ being ‘the public’, those without access to said cables. I wonder if there are NSA spooks watching this thread..), but we can very easily infer the opposite from actions your government is known to have taken (and admits to) over the past decade.

    If you choose to ignore or genuinely can’t see these blatant violations of international law which your government has perpetrated on numerous countries around the world for what they are, I’m sure hard evidence thereof would do little to convince you otherwise because you obviously closed your eyes, plugged your ears and started shouting LALALALA I CANT HEAR YOU some time ago. Or you are totally oblivious to the concept of international law and have no business speaking on the topic. Either works.

  15. I hope, that in Obama’s second term he becomes a real liberal and pardons this kid. Failing that, I hope we get a real far left president in the not-too-distant future to pardon him.

    1. I hope so too, but have you _ever_ known anyone to go left after getting into office? It’s always worse than you think.

  16. Manning is a whistleblower in a corrupt company – simple as that.

    Getting a bit of a broner here.
    You know how to knit a lovely Christmas sweater of rhetoric.

  17. I’d give him a pass on the gun camera stuff if it truly bothered him. The classified diplomatic cables are another issue entirely. That’s inexcusable.

    Dear NSA spooks. Please encrypt all future diplomatic cables.

  18. Manning did it — why shouldn’t he do the time — after a full court martial. I love how “brave” he until the consequences of his acts are required to be paid.

    Look at your history folks… no one bucks the system for free. So defend him vigorously, but don’t whine about it.

    And lawyers are free to “rebuff” him if they wish. The Army has NO say in that matter — witness all the lawyers tongue-bathing Gitmo detainees — sorry I mean look at Holder DOJ. Manning will have no problem finding a lawyer — unless he can’t pay for one. Wikileaks should pay for him an attorney since they used him.

  19. Slow down, everyone. Manning is not guilty yet, just charged. He is not necessarily the hero of the piece yet either, if you see it that way.

    The thing we know for fact is that Wikileaks got that video. We don’t know how for sure. We also know that the New York Times had that video for about a year prior. Part of the conversation was quoted verbatim in a book by a NYT writer (“The Good Soldiers”, I think). The video could have got to Wikileaks a lot more easily from the NYT than from Manning in Iraq.

    I am not saying that is how it happened. I don’t know. But it does come to mind that sometimes people come forward and confess to crimes they didn’t do. Sometimes several people come forward confessing to the one crime – people who couldn’t have done the crime, and certainly all of them couldn’t have done it. These people are unbalanced of course, and for criminal investigators they are vexatious as they take up time. I don’t know why, but the first question that came to my mind when I heard of Manning’s confession was, is he one of these? A confabulator? Particularly given the time it would take to move 260,000 highly classified files across the “air gap”.

    I remain skeptical of many aspects of the story, and hope there is due process and civilian representation.

  20. We cut ’em in half with a machine gun and give ’em a Band-Aid.
    It was a lie.
    And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies.

  21. I elect officials to oversee foreign policy. I don’t always agree with the people who are elected, nor the choices they make on my behalf, but they are my representatives and I stand behind them nonetheless. When the time comes, I get a chance to vote other people into office who represent me better. That’s how government works.

    I never voted to allow a monumentally foolish enlisted man to determine foreign policy for me. He overstepped his bounds on a grand scale, and if he did what they say he did, he is going to cool his heels in jail for a very, very long time. Deservedly so, because he is under the command of the executive branch, not a free agent to do as he pleases. If he didn’t do this, he will get due process and the opportunity to clear his name. Again, that’s how government works.

  22. I find it interesting all the people calling him a hero don’t defend his walking out with several hundred thousand classified cables.

  23. I find it interesting all the people calling him a hero don’t defend his walking out with several hundred thousand classified cables.

    Probably because, like me, they don’t really believe he did it. It sounds like empty bragging.

    He is charged with having unauthorised access to 150k cables, and with releasing one video and one cable.

    It’s this one, incidentally: Reykjavik 13. Which is totally uninteresting and not at all prejudicial.

  24. I’ve been in the military for 26 years, and I’ve never heard of any party’s attempt to secure legal representation being denied.

    Camp What-Ray? Guantanawhere? Extraodinary rendiwhoozzle?

    8 years, 9 months, and 27 days

  25. The tone of discussion I’m hearing between folk in the US reminds me more and more of the last few years leading up to the collapse of Apartheid in South Africa.

    On the one hand, folk still desperately clinging to the idea that something did not go horribly wrong with civil society and another group who are aware of the outrages but still clinging to the hope that the first group will come round.

    Point is moot.

    Until you are personally affected by the abuse of power it’s all just a theory to you and you will either deny the facts or wring your hands impotently at them.

    Which is kind of funny, because politically the setup in the US is a lot easier to challenge than it was in South Africa.

    You regularly get to vote for the folk who represent you in Congress.

    It would not take much to send a crystal clear message that abuse is no longer tolerated and that politicians who take difficult stands for the right thing once again have the support of the people instead of being mocked and ridiculed for their ‘naivete’

    This may, however, require letting go of a comforting moral relativism which, on the surface, promises to make human suffering easier to bear!

  26. It will be particularly interesting to see the degree to which:

    1. Wikileaks releases the material that Manning insists he passed to them (even while admitting that he would face prison or execution for the deed).

    2. Manning is prepared to do the time for the crime. In other words, will he plead guilty? Or will we see a flurry of self-preservation in the form of rationalization and minimization?

    It would be discouraging to see the principled self-righteousness that Manning began this endeavor with, those tall, heaping portions of (“I couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t sit around without doing SOMETHING….”) coupled with some sort of calculated expected value ethical trade off (“Sure, I might be executed or imprisoned for life, but… it is too important for me not to violate multiple provisions of the Espionage Act…”) melt away into something all together a bit more sell-outish.

    Ah… but the teeth of 52 years in a military penitentiary has begun to bite. Easy to flaunt the seriousness of consequences when you don’t really think you are going to get caught. Once grounded in reality, these sorts of consequences tend to strip away the bullshit and expose instead a burning vanity, desperate need for attention, press, and servitude to infantile black and white moralities (or maybe just the thrill of making Hillary Clinton look like a fool, not that there is anything wrong with that).

    And Wikileaks? I am beginning to feel that organization might have been a bit oversold to us. What happened to the devil-may-care, damn the torpedoes, neutral publisher of state secrets prepared to bear any burden, pay any price…? They won’t even confess to possessing the “critical to the revolution” data Manning rots in confinement for “liberating.” In fact, they haven’t pressed anything at all in quite some time. Even what they have released has been suspiciously… dull. Oh, sure, another video of another military strike in which civilians were killed (but which has already been covered fairly extensively by the media) is due to hit YouTube any day now.(tm) A six figure budget and they can’t even copy-paste a few all text cables now and then in between Adobe Premiere sessions? Hell yes. What a pair of heroes. Keep fighting the good fight comrades!

    (Sheesh, what a gyp).

  27. If Manning did it, he’s a hero. It takes massive testicles to go public with information you feel is important. I think it is important that we face the reality of what war is, how innocents die, and are fully aware of the human cost.

    He’s also kind of a rube for being lured into outing himself so easily, but all the best heroes remind us that humans, however heroic, are also flawed, fallible creatures.

  28. What Manning exposed showed soldiers shooting at what they thought were enemies but were in fact civilians and kids. This kind of crap happens very often and it’s obviously not a war crime. Instead of trying to redefine the meaning of “war crime”, why not try to come up with ways to avoid these sorts of horrors in the future, and make sure they don’t get covered up? Wouldn’t it be more productive?

    As for Manning, I hope it goes well for him.

    1. >> This kind of crap happens very often and it’s obviously not a war crime.

      It’s not obvious to me.

      1. Then how about, I dunno, maybe look up what is considered a war crime under international law?

  29. Whats going on with the world today? There have been bad choices made across the board, both sides of the story.
    If someone squeals of misconduct/immoral actions, then that person should be commended, no matter who it is. I want to know about any elected officials who are abusing their authority. Hell, if any human being does something immoral, his fellow men and women deserve to know about it. The truth doesn’t deserve to get censored, just protected.

    If he gave cables to the enemy, then he deserves to get fried for it. Is Wikileaks an enemy combatant, or a free press agency? What exactly are the charges?? Hard to trust the army when they are supreme at keeping secrets. If he goes down for the video only then freedom is amiss.

    They should give him a trial in civilian criminal court. Look what happened to general McCrystal. Shame….

  30. Small issue, but the US Army’s abbreviation for “Lieutenant Colonel” is “LTC”, not “Ltc.”. Similarly, “Private First Class” is “PFC” not “Pfc”.

    These kinds of distinction are important, because different branches (and for that matter, different countries) use different abbreviations for ranks.

    Thus, Capt. McLaze (USAF) and CPT McLaze (US Army) know by signature whom the other works for…and not to be surprised when the higher-ranked CAPT McLaze (US Navy) expects a salute when she arrives.

  31. >> If he gave cables to the enemy, then he deserves to get fried for it.

    So, revealing war crimes and systemic malfeasance to the American people is a capital offense? In your “giving cables to the enemy” equation, the “cables” are the videos which reveal the murder of civilians. And the enemy are the American taxpayers.

    If that doesn’t beautifully encapsulate the damaged and warped state of the democratic zeitgeist in the United States in 2010, I don’t know what does.

    1. >In your “giving cables to the enemy” equation, the “cables” are the videos which reveal the murder of civilians

      Well to be fair the scope of this accusation goes far beyond this one video. Apparently Wikileaks is in possession of thousands of cables and we don’t know what all the content is.

      I’m sympathetic to Manning because I think all of our military actions of the past 40 years or more have been nothing more than empire building exercises. But he’s well and truly screwed here.

      As somebody else points out, NEVER, EVER join the military. You will not be a hero. Neither will you have an opportunity to enact change “from within”.

  32. The video shows American pilots slaughtering innocent civilians while laughing and joking as they gunned them down.

    Manning should not have leaked the video. That’s just downright un-American.

  33. I was MI when I was in the Army. They are very serious about Top Secret material being compromised. I had to sign a statement of understanding that stated that I could be prosecuted for 10yrs/$10,000 for each offense of compromising classified material.

    I just hope he realized what the consequences were when he did this and was prepared to face them.

  34. Don’t see how this his alleged actions could have been ‘prejudicial to the army’. As far as I know, the army is in the business to fight wars. It was the prior administration, and the current administration of change that dragged the army into a pointless conflict.

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