The second week of the court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the man behind the infamous Iraq war leaks, is coming to an end, with the prosecution picking apart the contents of Manning’s personal laptop and scouring communications between the soldier and Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website. Assange is currently taking asylum at the Ecuador Embassy in London.
Manning is facing at least 22 charges being brought against him, including espionage and aiding the enemy, both of which could land him behind bars for life. If Manning is convicted of espionage, it could change the path for all future military whistleblowers aiming to expose government secrets.
According to the prosecution, Manning’s sharing of more than 700,000 battlefield reports on WikiLeaks was aiding the enemy because WikiLeak documents were found on Osama Bin Laden’s computer.
The defense argued, however, that Manning couldn’t have fathomed the seriousness of his actions when he shared the documents on WikiLeaks, as his intentions were good-natured because he felt the need to make a difference in society. It seems the defense is riding on the notion that Manning’s good faith would make charging him with espionage outrageous, as only those with malicious intentions against the U.S. are usually charged under the Espionage Act.
Nevertheless, the U.S. has suffered a back-to-back blow with Manning’s leaks in 2010 and now the leaks from Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the NSA’s surveillance program last week. Manning and Snowden both exposed major flaws in the nation’s securities systems, and the outcome of Manning’s trial could portray what is in store for Snowden.
Krysta is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.