I traveled to Ft. Meade, Maryland today to observe the trial of Army PFC. Bradley Manning. The 25-year-old Oklahoma native has admitted to providing Wikileaks with more than 700,000 leaked documents, which included battle reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, State Department diplomatic cables, and military videos from combat zones.
Manning downloaded the material from a military network in late 2009 and early 2010 while serving in Iraq as an intelligence analyst. WikiLeaks published much of the material, and shared it with news organizations including Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and the New York Times, which in turn published reports of their own based on the leaked material.
Manning has not, did not, and today told the court he will not testify in the military court martial. In March, however, he gave an extensive statement to Colonel Denise Lind's court about his motivations. Freedom of the Press Foundation, of which I am a board member, published an audio recording of that speech .
Manning has pled guilty to ten charges, which carry a maximum penalty of up to twenty years in prison. The government has continued to pursue all of its initial charges against him, including charges under the Espionage Act and "aiding the enemy." Civil liberties advocates argue that a guilty verdict could have dangerous consequences on press freedom and First Amendment issues in America.
The defense rested its case today after having called a total of ten witnesses in the trial. The last was Yochai Benkler, a Harvard professor who is the author of a widely-cited paper on the role WikiLeaks plays in what he terms "the networked fourth estate." In his testimony for the defense today, he described Wikileaks as having played a legitimate role in a new world of journalism; he argued that the government's characterization of the group as an Anti-American espionage front was inaccurate. And the prosecution inadvertently gave Benkler an opportunity to explain why an aiding the enemy charge against Manning is so extreme.
The court will reconvene on Monday. The defense is expected to present oral arguments to dismiss various charges against Manning, including aiding the enemy.
The prosecution today indicated that the government plans to present a rebuttal case before both sides enter the closing argument phase.
The trial is expected to reach a conclusion soon.