The Paranoia, 21st Century Edition

28 May

Brad Knows My Secret! Americans don’t seem to need a holiday as an excuse for ignoring the Wikileaks scandal. On the day established to commemorate the Americans who contributed their lives, to serve, protect, and defend a government, is it disrespectful to consider Bradley Manning for longer than the standard human prayer-period? According to Manning’s biographer, Denver Nicks, “The more conversations we have about Bradley Manning in which neither of these largely meaningless buzzwords [hero or traitor] is said, the better off we’ll be as a country.”

Q.:Pull back the curtain on Manning, and tell us some things we don’t know about him.

A.:There’s no doubt Brad Manning was troubled by his experiences in Iraq and unhappy about aspects of life in the military, but he’s far from anti-military or even anti-war. Early in his deployment to Iraq he mulled over re-enlisting and mused about the attractive notion of attending West Point.

He proudly told a close friend that he was being recruited for the United States Cyber Command, the Pentagon’s then-brand-new cyberwarfare unit based at Fort Meade. He spoke fondly of the prospect of getting experience working alongside the NSA. It seems he was most troubled not by American foreign policy in general or even the Iraq war specifically, but by the secrecy with which they were conducted.

Manning’s fairly straightforward, pro-transparency motivation is uncommon among those who leak information to the press, and gets easily lost in the left-right rhetoric that dominates our public life in the United States.

This pro-transparency agenda, and not incompetence, is what conceivably compels Manning’s defense team’s reacent moves.

The military trial of the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning is being conducted amid far more secrecy than even the prosecution of the alleged 9/11 plotters in Guantanamo, a coalition of lawyers and media outlets protest.

Led by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the coalition has petitioned the Army court of criminal appeals calling for the court-martial against Manning to be opened up to the press and public. The group complains that the way the trial is being handled by the trial judge Colonel Denise Lind is a violation of the First Amendment of the constitution that requires public access unless the government can specifically demonstrate the need for secrecy.

Coombs is also seeking dismissal of 10 of the 22 charges against Manning “…contending they are either unconstitutionally vague or fail to state a prosecutable offense.”

The defense contends the government used unconstitutionally vague language in eight counts charging Manning with unauthorized possession and disclosure of classified information. The motion specifically targets the government’s use of the phrases, “relating to the national defense” and “to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”

Both phrases are so sweeping in their scope that they fail to provide the accused with fair warning of what conduct is prohibited, the defense said.

The defense is also seeking dismissal of two counts alleging Manning exceeded his authorized access on computers linked to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, a Defense Department intranet system.

The government alleges Manning used the computers to obtain certain State Department cables that were then transmitted to a person not entitled to receive them. The defense argues that someone’s purpose in accessing a computer is irrelevant to the charge of exceeding authorized access.

It’s the emphasis on the “national defense” crutch, that is most interesting, because, in a information-soaked, globalized world, the Manning case stands out as a throwback to a nostalgic after-image of Cold War paranoia. The “Brady materials” the prosecution refuses to provide in violation of American law provides the defense with the means to test the “national defense” argument, in public, where any concerned citizen can evaluate for him or herself this claim the Federal government insists it must have.

When it comes down to it, Manning’s defense team is asking who’s in charge, the law as an expression of popular will, or the government citizens have created through their consent.

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