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Bradley Manning: Did Homophobia Make Him Leak?

Bradley_Manning_2_(cropped)I mentioned this briefly in last night's links roundup, but it's become a pretty big deal: Private First Class Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence specialist who allegedly leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, has officially made his sexual orientation a keystone of his defense. From Salon:

The young Army intelligence specialist accused of passing government secrets spent his 24th birthday in court Saturday as his lawyers argued his status as a gay soldier before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” played an important role in his actions.

Lawyers for Pfc. Bradley Manning began laying out a defense to show that his struggles as a gay soldier in an environment hostile to homosexuality contributed to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material.

So: Manning -- whose defenders have spent countless hours and expended countless millions of breaths proclaiming his nobility and rectitude -- is now tacitly acknowledging that the Wikileaks leak was a wrong and regrettable thing, and that he'd never have done it if he was in his right mind. Whether he really believes that, or whether he's only saying it because his spirit was broken by ten months in solitary confinement in some dank Army oubliette, is unknowable. What is knowable, and queasy-making, is that lawyers are now arguing in a military courtroom that gays can't be trusted with classified material until the military is purged of homophobia.

As it happens, Manning's lawyers aren't the first attorneys to make that argument in recent memory. Ann Coulter made it months ago, in an article entitled "Bradley Manning: Poster Boy For 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'." Maybe he should hire her. It'd definitely score points with the allegedly homophobic military personnel hearing his case.


50 European Parliament Members Send Letter to U.S. Expressing Concerns About Bradley Manning's Treatment

In advance of his first court appearance, a pre-trial hearing, on December 16, more than 50 members of the European parliament have sent an open letter to the U.S. government expressing concerns about the treatment of Wikileaks soldier Bradley Manning, the Guardian reports:

ManningThe MEPs said internal investigations into Manning's treatment in custody, which included solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day, inspections by officers every five minutes from 5am onwards and removal of his clothes, had been marred by "clear conflicts of interest".

They call for US authorities to grant Juan Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, access to Manning. Mendez has made repeated requests for access to the military base where Manning is held, all of which have been refused by US authorities.

The paper adds:

The open letter from European parliamentarians, which follows another signed by several hundred US legal scholars, questioned the charges against Manning and warned that his pre-trial treatment may harm the UN's work elsewhere, "particularly its mandate to investigate allegations of torture and human rights abuses".

"In order to uphold the rights guaranteed to Bradley Manning under international human rights law and the US constitution, it is imperative that the United Nations special rapporteur be allowed to properly investigate evidence of rights abuses. PFC Manning has a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. People accused of crimes must not be subjected to any form of punishment before being brought to trial," they wrote.

"We certainly do not understand why an alleged whistleblower is being threatened with the death penalty, or the possibility of life in prison. We also question whether Bradley Manning's right to due process has been upheld, as he has now spent over 17 months in pre-trial confinement."

Meanwhile, WIRED reports that Manning's attorney claims that the government is withholding evidence favorable to Manning:

Manning’s defense attorney, David E. Coombs, is attempting to get evidence from the government to defend Manning in his upcoming pre-trial hearing on Dec. 16, but says the government is stonewalling him.

“The defense has repeatedly requested the below discovery in this case, but the government has consistently responded with a blanket denial of the defense request,” Coombs wrote in the partially redacted filing.

The evidence Coombs seeks includes copies of internal reports conducted by task forces assessing the damage from and the classification levels of the 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and 500,000 classified Iraq and Afghanistan war field reports allegedly leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks.


Wikileaks Soldier Bradley Manning to Get First Court Appearance After 17 Months in Confinement

Accused Wikileaks soldier Bradley Manning will get his first pretrial hearing on December 16:

ManningThe primary purpose of the Article 32 hearing is "to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the government's case as well as to provide the defense with an opportunity to obtain pretrial discovery," attorney David E. Coombs wrote Monday on his website.

The defense may call witnesses and cross-examine the government's witnesses, Coombs wrote. Witnesses are placed under oath, and their testimony may be used during a trial.

Writes the Bradley Manning Support Network: "This will be PFC Manning’s first appearance before a court and the first time he will face his accusers after 17 months in confinement. In a blog post this morning, Manning’s lead counsel, David Coombs, notified supporters that the pretrial phase is scheduled to last five days."


Bradley Manning Update

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A reminder from Wikileaks. And some commentary from Reddit.


Watch: Frontline Looks at the Conflicted Mind of Wikileaks Soldier Bradley Manning, His Interest in Gay Rights, His Facebook Wall

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PBS Frontline takes a close look tonight at the conflicted mind of Wikileaks soldier Bradley Manning:

Manning's Facebook postings are a vivid, if partial, portrait of his life in the military and of the political and social issues that he followed closely. They reflect his commitment to gay rights and defiance of the military's ban on openly gay or lesbian soldiers. They track the anguish in his personal life. And they conclude with an entry, put up in Manning’s name by his aunt, explaining his arrest with a link to a WikiLeaks website.

Frontline also obtained access to Manning's Facebook account. They offer a detailed annotation of his Facebook wall on their website.

ManningAnother analysis of the Facebook account at Yahoo News' The Lookout:

In the postings, the army intelligence analyst broadcasts his gay rights activism, joining scores of groups like "LGBT Rights" and "REPEAL THE BAN--End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" and shares thoughts about his boyfriend, in apparent violation of the military's ban on gays serving openly. But the postings, which span nearly three years, also depict a young man who by last year had grown deeply frustrated by the need to hide his sexuality from his colleagues, and was fighting feelings of despair and isolation.

To be sure, there's also evidence that Manning's qualms about the civilian deaths caused by the military, and his broader discomfort with the direction of U.S. foreign policy helped stoke his sense of disillusion and alienation. But taken as a whole, the Facebook archive suggests that anger about Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT)--which was repealed by Congress last December, but remains in place for now--may also have played a role in Manning's alleged act of rebellion. In other words, that Manning may have responded to the strain of being made to keep his own secrets for so long by revealing U.S. government secrets of a far more consequential nature.

Watch a preview, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Watch: Frontline Looks at the Conflicted Mind of Wikileaks Soldier Bradley Manning, His Interest in Gay Rights, His Facebook Wall" »


Obama Calls Treatment of Wikileaks Soldier Bradley Manning 'Appropriate' and 'Meeting Our Basic Standards'

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President Obama assured members of the press today that treatment of Wikileaks soldier Bradley Manning, whose treatment has been described as inhumane and compared to torture, was "appropriate" and met "our basic standards."

Watch Obama respond to ABC News' Jake Tapper, AFTER THE JUMP...

Manning Manning spoke out today for the first time since his detention in a letter released by his lawyer:

The most graphic passage of the letter is Manning's description of how he was placed on suicide watch for three days from 18 January. "I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness."

**

When he was told he was being put on suicide watch, he writes, "I became upset. Out of frustration, I clenched my hair with my fingers and yelled: 'Why are you doing this to me? Why am I being punished? I have done nothing wrong.'"

He also describes the experience of being stripped naked at night and made to stand for parade in the nude, a condition that continues to this day. "The guard told me to stand at parade rest, with my hands behind my back and my legs spaced shoulder-width apart. I stood at parade rest for about three minutes … The [brig supervisor] and the other guards walked past my cell. He looked at me, paused for a moment, then continued to the next cell. I was incredibly embarrassed at having all these people stare at me naked."

Said Obama of Manning's situation: 

"I have asked the Pentagon whether or not the the procedures that have been taken in terms of his condition are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Obama Calls Treatment of Wikileaks Soldier Bradley Manning 'Appropriate' and 'Meeting Our Basic Standards'" »


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