WikiLeaks Trial Resumes: A Look at Manning's Defense

WikiLeaks Trial Resumes: A Look at Manning's Defense

As Bradley Manning's trial continues this week, the army intelligence analyst's defense team, led by David E. Coombs, may be able to capitalize on key slipups made by the prosecution, which rested last week.

The government's most glaring blunder was its failure to present two contracts signed by Manning upon his deployment to Iraq. The first contract relates to the prosecution's charging Manning with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act while the second relates to Manning's handling of classified information in general. Essentially, the prosecution alleges Manning breached both contracts, but with the Army's copies of said contracts nowhere to be found, the prosecution faces a significant disadvantage – so much so that Coombs will likely ask Judge Col. Denise Lind to drop the contract-related charges.

The prosecution's next gaffe involved their alleging that Manning, within days of his arrival in Iraq, leaked a classified video of a US 2009 air strike, only to have one of their witnesses admit the video did not match the version found on Manning's computer. While Manning admits he leaked the controversial video – which later came to be known as the "Collateral Murder Video" – his testimony reflects that he did so in April 2010, after observing civilians being bombed by a US military convoy, which allegedly gave his conscience pause.

It is Manning's conscience upon which Coombs' team has consistently based their argument, citing both the Army Private's naiveté and youth (Manning was 22 at the time of the offense), while arguing that he leaked the classified documents not in attempt to aid the enemy, but merely to spark debate about US foreign policy. Specifically, Coombs has highlighted the fact that, whereas many service members embellish their 'dog tags' with religious symbols, Manning decorated his with the word 'humanist'. Coombs has also attributed Manning's actions to his desire "to make a difference", arguing that he "selected information he believed the public should see and hear" in hopes to "make the world a better place". Coombs further maintains that Manning believed not only that "Americans should know what is happening [overseas] on a day-to-day basis", but that "if everyone knew [the classified information], it could not be used by the enemy."

Ultimately, the question at issue is: when Manning provided Juliet Assange with the classified documents, did he know they would reach the enemy – Osama bin Laden? As the trial continues, the defense vehemently contends that the answer to this key question is a resounding "no."

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