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Bradley Manning Trial: WikiLeaks Lawyer Sees Spurious "Enemy" Claims and Bid to Scare Whistleblowers

The military trial of Army whistleblower Bradley Manning at Fort Meade, Maryland, began Monday with the defense and prosecution presenting starkly contrasting accounts.

US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning (C) arrives for a hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Photo Credit: AFP


AARON MATÉ: The military trial of Army whistleblower Bradley Manning is underway. Manning is accused of providing more than 700,000 secret U.S. government documents and cables to WikiLeaks, the largest disclosure of state secrets in U.S. history. Manning faces more than 20 charges, including violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy. He has already pled guilty to 10 lesser charges of misusing classified material.

The trial began Monday with the defense and prosecution presenting starkly contrasting accounts. Manning’s defense lawyer, David Coombs, said Manning wanted to reveal the human costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Coombs said, quote, "[Bradley Manning] believed this information showed how we value human life. He was troubled by that. He believed that if the American public saw it, they too would be troubled."

AMY GOODMAN: Army prosecutor Captain Joe Morrow accused Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy, including Osama Bin Laden, who allegedly accessed some of the classified State Department cables after they were published by the website WikiLeaks. Morrow said, quote, "This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy—material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk," he said.

Coombs responded by arguing that Manning was selective, saying, quote, "He had access to literally hundreds of millions of documents as an all-source analyst, and these were the documents that he released. And he released these documents because he was hoping to make the world a better place," he said.

The trial is expected to run to the end of August. Supporters of Bradley Manning gathered outside Fort Meade as the trial opened.

BROOKS BALLENGER: Bradley Manning did a very courageous thing. He told the American people and the world about what was going on in Afghanistan and about misinformation and distortions that were used to convince people that we should be in this war and that it was a just war and that we were helping the Afghan people, and a bunch of other misdeeds that the U.S. was doing. And I think that was a service to the country.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Bradley Manning supporter Brooks Ballenger.

To talk more about the first day of the trial and its implications, we’re joined by Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a lawyer for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. He was there yesterday at the opening session of Bradley Manning’s trial at Fort Meade.

Welcome back to  Democracy Now!, Michael. Describe the scene yesterday. This is when the defense and the prosecution lays out their opening arguments.

MICHAEL RATNER: You know, it’s the third time, really, that I’ve been utterly devastated by being in that courtroom. First was when Bradley talked about his torture; secondly, when he talked about why he leaked the documents and gave his political reasons. And this time, the scene was—imagine a small antiseptic-looking courtroom. You have Bradley Manning sitting at the table between very large people, including his lawyer, looking very diminutive, but very dignified. And you have, you know, 16 of us in the courtroom plus a bunch of prosecutors and a few sketch artists and press. And they open—the government opens with a slide show. And the slide show is about how we are going to convince the court—it’s only a judge trial—that Bradley Manning aided the enemy, just dumped millions of documents, has nothing good to say about him, and we’re going to put him away for life. I mean, they didn’t say that, but that’s what happens if he’s convicted.

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