Deep Issues with Bradley Manning Defense

 This is a slightly updated version of a diary I posted yesterday, but would like to republish now, as Sunday is not a great time to post. I think the issue merits the attention. If this kind of republish is a problem, please inform me and I will take it down.

Fellow Kossack Horace Boothroyd III, who is always there with some of the latest and greatest news, just published an informative piece entitled: Bradley Manning Defensewhich I found very thought provoking, because it looks as though both the prosecution and defense may have strong motivations for a trial that overlooks the actual moral and legal issues that must be tested.

The key is vested interest: that of the Army, that of the policymakers on whom the Army depends for funding, and that of the defense team.

I would like repost the diary (I have Horace's permission) and my response to it below, because I think Horace has revealed some very serious issues. I'm not sure about the exact protocol for this, so if there is any reason not to repost, I will remove it.

From the initial post:

Fort George G. Meade, Maryland (CNN) -- Defense lawyers for an Army private accused in the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history brought up Saturday a purported female alter ego of Bradley Manning's as they seek to establish his state of mind at the time of the alleged crimes.

On one hand my initial reaction is distaste.

But if I look deeper there is more going on.

One of the things I've learned is if someone is unfamiliar with Transgender people their first reaction is to not trust us. I have had this explained to me by authority figures such as the police as this:

You are "lying" to us about your gender so what is to keep you from lying about everything else?

Even before transition I would regularly pass so I've experienced this while I hadn't even transitioned. I crossed gender boundaries. As does Bradley Manning in his voice pitch and mannerisms.

In my case my reaction was to become hyper honest. As to prove at least to myself that I was honest. It made the hurt of mistrust somehow sting less.

So this is one of the things Bradly Manning is being charged with revealing. Something that embarrasses this government not because it clearly shows a broken military that are no better than armed thugs. But because now others have proof that our military is broken and has no control of their soldiers once they leave base.

The turning point for Manning apparently came when he was ordered to investigate the arrest of Iraqis for the distribution of "anti Iraq" literature by the Iraqi Federal Police.  When Manning discovered that the literature in question was a "benign political critique" of Iraq Prime Minister Al-Maliki, Manning reported the incident to Army superiors who told Manning "to shut up."  Manning apparently then began to leak classified materials in an effort to "do the right thing."  The materials Manning leaked apparently included a video of a 2007 U.S. Army helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a number of civilians

I would do something drastic in that situation too. To hide the truth is antithetical to me. And being in the military Bradley Manning was bound by the UCMJ:

“Any person subject to this chapter who, knowing that an offense punishable by this chapter has been committed, receives, comforts, or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial, or punishment shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”


So not only was he asked to lie he was under threat of imprisonment for lying. So logic dictates that taking the risk of exposing the crimes committed would not be any more of a risk than following illegal orders and helping to cover up these crimes.

This is not what Bradley Manning's lawyers have in mind when they present this defense.


Special agent Calder Robertson of the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), testifying by phone from Germany, was asked by one of Manning's attorneys if he knew that the Army private had an alter ego with the name, Breanna Manning. The agent said he was aware Manning used the name in online chats.

During questioning by Manning's lawyer, it was revealed that Manning kept a folder of articles about gender identity disorder in his living quarters.

They want to present this is a mental health issue. That he was somehow lacking by being a sufferer of GID. Even though the authors insist the inclusion of GID in their manual is not to be interpreted as proof of mental illness. I'm fairly certain the authors of the DSM are the only ones that actually think that. At least in practice.

We do know that he has been abused as far as solitary confinement. That his civil rights as far as a speedy trial have been violated. That his defense is being denied the right to a fair trial as far as calling witnesses.

For those who want to know what is currently going on: Here is a Bradley Manning Trial Liveblog.


From my response:

So, the defense is that Manning's sexuality affects his sanity?  

Okay, offensive enough, but this could go deeper.

If the the defense argues  that Manning was illegally ordered to lie, any outcome causes serious problems for the Army:

1.  Bradley wins, opening up the possibility that any member of the armed forces will be more likely to disobey and expose illegal orders.

2.  Bradley loses on the grounds that he still had an obligation to obey illegal orders, which opens up all sorts of question about what other illegal orders are being given.

3.  Bradley loses because the orders are deemed to have been legal, which puts the army in the position of explaining why lying is legal in the first place.

On the other hand,this defense also serves to provide talking points to those who don't want gays to serve.

The defense has to know this, and that, given what is at stake for the Army, and the legal (and who knows what other) power it can bring to bear on this case, the best way to help Manning might be to avoid this can of worms completely.  After all, the defense is ethically bound to do its best for Manning, and not for public policy, so it is in a very tricky spot with limited options.


That's my 10,000 foot take.  The prosecution won't want to admit any wrongdoing by the Army, and the defense can't press the issue if they want a chance. No matter what, Manning, justice and the American people are poorly served.

DailyKos / By TheGrandWazoo

Posted at December 19, 2011, 2:56am