US Navy SEAL involved in bin Laden raid to testify in Wikileaks trial
FORT MEADE, April 11 – Ingrid Burke, RAPSI. US prosecutors will not be prevented from moving forward with plans to call on a member of the Navy SEAL team that is believed to have killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011 to testify in the case against former military intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who stands accused of having disclosed a great deal of classified information to Wikileaks, the Bradley Manning Support Network reported Wednesday.
According to the advocacy group, Manning moved Wednesday to preclude the government from introducing evidence of bin Laden’s actual receipt of the classified information he is charged with having disclosed to Wikileaks. The defense had argued that the evidence was unnecessary as well as emotionally and politically loaded. The presiding judge sided with prosecutors, noting that in order to prove that Manning had “aided the enemy,” they would be required to furnish proof of the enemy’s actual receipt of the contested information.
According to Manning’s advocacy group, he stands accused of having leaked a video showing US soldiers killing unarmed civilians in Iraq, including a photographer for Reuters and his driver. He is further accused of having leaked a multitude of Army reports and diplomatic cables that – once published by Wikileaks – dealt a humiliating blow to the US government in terms of its military and diplomatic agendas.
Manning was quoted as having said of the leaks, “I believed and still believe these are some of most important documents of our time,” and then of having defended his decision to disclose on the basis of having wanted to ignite a domestic dialogue on America’s war on terror. In his view, the footage needed to be seen by the American public, as its government had become “obsessed with capturing and killing people.”
Speaking of the Iraq killing video, he reportedly described the footage as “similar to a child torturing ants [with] a magnifying glass.”
In its roundup of Wednesday’s hearing, the Bradley Manning Support Network explained that the defendant was motivated by a desire to expose America’s “bloodlust” at war, as well as its diplomatic “backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity.”
Perhaps feeling that it would not be in the US’ best interest to vest in a 24-year-old with a penchant for words like “bloodlust” the authority to balance the interests of national security and transparency according to his own calculus,, the US government filed 22 charges against Manning.
Among other things, Manning was charged with having violated a section of the Espionage Act, which will require a showing by the prosecutors that Manning leaked the contested information with reason to believe that it could be used either “to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”
Prosecutors moved during Tuesday’s hearing to lower the burden of proof by striking the “reason to believe” language.
The motion was denied, which according to Manning’s advocacy group will allow the defense to refute the intent requirement. Manning is quoted as having explained, “I believed that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States; however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations.”
Manning has a passionate group of supporters who believe that he deserves honors and praise for exposing war crimes and atrocities committed by US forces in the context of its “War on Terror,” according to the defendant’s advocacy website. He has reportedly been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 and 2012.
The US government acted swiftly to stop the leak.
In May 2010 – the month following Wikileaks’ release of the Iraq video – Manning was arrested in Kuwait. He was charged the following month for having leaked classified documents, according to his advocacy website.
For fear of facing the same destiny, Wikileaks founder and chief editor Julian Assange has remained in hiding in Ecuador’s London embassy since June 2012 based on the leap of logic that if he were to be extradited by UK authorities to Sweden, he could face the death penalty in the US.
Assange has gained international notoriety in recent years for having exposed scores of sensitive and secret documents via his website Wikileaks. The present saga began, however, when the British Supreme Court upheld in May an order to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning in connection with alleged sexual offenses.
After having lost his final shot at the UK shielding him from Swedish justice, Assange applied for asylum in Ecuador. Ecuador in turn agreed to the asylum grant based on concerns that Assange might ultimately face the death penalty if extradited to the US.
If convicted in the US under the 1917 Espionage Act on the basis of his Wikileaks work, Assange could face capital punishment. However, the UK only wanted to extradite Assange to Sweden to face sexual offense allegations, not to the US to face espionage charges.
If it is ultimately requested, Assange’s extradition from Sweden would only be legally feasible in the context of US assurance that capital punishment would be absolutely off the table.