Bradley Manning: Hero or villain?

Supporters of Bradley Manning 24 November 2011 Bradley Manning has been in custody since May 2010 when he was arrested in Iraq

Private Bradley Manning is of course innocent until proven guilty, although his commander-in-chief doesn't seem to have much doubt that he's broken the law.

Pte Manning is the intelligence analyst who US authorities suspect of being behind the hugely embarrassing Wikileaks releases. He was arrested in Iraq last May for illegally downloading material from America's secret internet network.

His appearance in the court room in Fort Meade, Maryland, is under what is known as an article 32 hearing in the military code. It is more than a formality. It will decide whether he will face a court martial and is likely to feature an outline of the arguments on both sides, cross-examination of witnesses and could last up to a week.

If he is found guilty of the charge of supplying information to the enemy he could be executed, although the prosecution have made it clear they will not seek the death penalty. He could however be jailed for life.

This case probably will not be about the facts. It will be about the rights and wrongs of what he did.

Disturbed young man

To some he is a hero, to others a villain.

Many in America will feel, if he is guilty, it is quite clear that he is a traitor who has broken his vows to his country and deserves harsh punishment. Some have even said what he and Wikileaks have done amounts to terrorism.

The defence may choose to paint a picture of a disturbed young man, sensitive and gay adrift in a macho culture. They are likely to bring up allegations that he has been subjected to deliberately punitive detention in a military brig.

There is a suggestion that they will focus on arguing the release of the material didn't do much harm.

But it will be interesting if they put the main point of his many supporters - that what Manning did transcends legal rules and national interests, that information wants to be free, and that truth is more important than government's desire to keep something secret.

Behind this is a specific allegation - that orders to Manning were illegal.

To that end, the defence wants to call US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the stand.

I doubt we will be seeing them at Fort Meade, but it should make for some interesting exchanges.

I will, I hope, be blogging and tweeting from the courtroom, if allowed.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    There are few crimes in American culture more heinous than treason, few characterizations more damning than traitor.Even murderer is not its equal.Perhaps child sex offender is as bad.Our synonym for traitor is Benedict Arnold, not Judas Iscariot.He was trusted with secrets sensitive to the security of the United States and released it.If guilty he should be executed as punishment and as a warning

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The people behind Wikileaks are irresponsible at best.

    Making information like this public is liable to get folk murdered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    15. "Will we ever know how many Afghan informants were murdered by the Taliban because of this?"

    isn't that a bit rich, considering the thousands of ordinary Afghan civilians who have died in that war; and what about the hundreds of thousands of of dead Iraqi civilians? and yes, it was "immoral to invade Afghanistan" and Iraq.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    This sorry episode shows the US going through its adolescent assertive stage.
    One day, hopefully, it will find wisdom, maturity and a true, proportional, democracy.
    In the meanwhile, someone has to keep it slapped down, well done Mr Manning.
    Here's to more like you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Manning's supporters conveniently side-step several key issues, the most important being the human cost of his actions. Will we ever know how many Afghan informants were murdered by the Taliban because of this?

    No doubt they will respond with the usual atrocious logic that: Yeah but that's ok because it was immoral to invade Afghanistan in the first place. Sorry but you don't speak for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    There are NO heros in this sad story.

    The American government have in the past shown they are willing to use propaganda and twist facts to suit themselves and hide others which show them in a bad light.

    This confused young man though idealistic motives wished to expose truth but risked putting others lives in danger through his actions.

    And Wikileaks were found to be flawed too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.


    people like him are needed to expose the hypocrisy and brutallity of our armed forces.I also like the notion that if they can spy on us then we can spy on them.You gotta love the digital age.

    well done Bradley.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    "Hero or villain?"

    hero, if it was him; anyone who blows the whistle on war criminals is to be congratulated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    He may have been an intelligence analyst but does not someone wonder how he had such easy access to an enormous range of data and information way beyond what he needed for his job. He may have been an intelligence analyst but how come he was so easily identified. More openness in the world of diplomacy will do no harm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Manning has to have his trial.

    But he is a traitor and there is nothing heroic in a soilder violating his oath.

    I have no pity for his and he and another person involved in Assange should serve life in prison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    "information wants to be free."
    I can't see it working, but I'd love to see small government Tea Partiers squirming around trying to justify where in the constitution it allows government to prohibit information release based on national security.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Bradley Manning

    The more intelligent, a young Private taking seriously his education in US headline political history, not yet informed by what passes for commercial sophistication, must be expected to face doubts in a world that sees US military-industrial complex 'out of control'

    Any such recruit is owed mentoring, for own sake and for the purposes presumably held legitimate by his superiors

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Bradley Manning
    NO Traitor

    FOR State &/or PEOPLE
    FORCED to Choose

    Acted FOR The PEOPLE
    For Constitution & Human Rights
    In Domestic & World Division
    Half agin, Half 'understanding'
    Incompetence or worse

    However charged
    Even if Destructive in Majority
    Our Loyalty to Timeless Fathers
    Those who inspired
    Those inspired by
    The Best

    US to free:
    Conscience & Courage

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    he's going to be hung out to dry for telling the truth. he should be enormously proud to have had the courage to have done what he did. that's not going to stop him getting vilified and incarcerated for the rest of his life though, sadly. those in power are not usually very forgiving to those who expose them to the glare of scrutiny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    "...information wants to be free, and that truth is more important than government's desire to keep something secret."

    Ah, so that's why China keeps stealing intellectual property. The information just wants to be free!

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    While I think the young man did beak the law with his actions and should be punished, let's don't make this a Capitol Offense. The realization is that he has embarrassed the Politicians of the State Dept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    "...that what Manning did transcends legal rules and national interests, that information wants to be free, and that truth is more important than government's desire to keep something secret."

    I hope he's got a better defense than that (personally, I suggest the old stand-by, temporary insanity). That will get him at least 20 years.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    So "information wants to be free." And corporations are people. and "truth is more important than government's desire to keep something secret." So by that reasoning if I know a vicious killer is holed up in my
    neighbor's house and I tell him where the guns and ammo are in that house, it's the right thing to do. Yeah, right.


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