Pfc. Bradley Manning faces a total of 22 charges – including aiding the enemy – after thousands of classified documents allegedly downloaded by the former intelligence analyst ended up on WikiLeaks.
Manning’s civilian defense lawyer David Coombs recently warned that unless the “aiding the enemy” charge is clarified without delay, the Pfc. would find himself in a “more difficult” position than terrorists facing the exact same count.
“It defies all logic to think that a terrorist would fare better in an American court for aiding the enemy than a US soldier would,” Coombs wrote in a motion cited by the UK-based Guardian. ”For the exact same conduct, a terrorist would benefit from a friendlier mens rea [guilty mind] than a soldier would. Congress could not have intended to give terrorists a more protective mens rea than it gave to [their own] soldiers.”
Coombs and Manning will be back in a military courtroom next week for a pre-trial hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland, while the Pentagon puts the final touches on its pending court martial against the soldier.
As The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington notes, the most significant discussion at next week’s proceedings is likely to focus on the precise legal definition of “aiding the enemy”- specifically its allegation that Manning “knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy.”
Indeed, Colonel Denise Lind previously ruled that the former intelligence analyst must have had “actual knowledge” he was giving intelligence to an enemy for the charge to be proven. As such, says Coombs, accusing Manning of having deliberately aided the enemy by transmitting intelligence to the WikiLeaks website – where it was accessible to all – would remove any sense of him “knowingly” doing so.
“This would render the ‘actual knowledge’ element utterly toothless in all internet-intelligence cases,” he Coombs emphasized.
Manning’s court martial is currently scheduled for September, but may be postponed due to ongoing legal wrangling. If found guilty, the Pfc. is likely to spend the rest of his life in a military brig without the possibility of parole.