The Consequences of a Bradley Manning Conviction

“We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected.”  

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on July 18th, 2013.



Perhaps sometime after the weekly “Terror Tuesday” meeting,  where a literal death panel convenes to decide will be assassinated next, the Obama administration continued the battle to redefine our Constitution as the trial of Bradley Manning concludes. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is facing 21 charges, including “aiding the enemy,” for disseminating hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks. If convicted, the 25-year-old could serve a life sentence.

The leaked material implicates the United States in multiple human rights violations. For instance, the leaked Iraq War Logs suggest that US military officials turned a blind eye to the torture, a violation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The treaty was ratified by Congress in 1994.

Pfc. Manning also leaked a video depicting the killing of Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, along with a group of unidentified men, including one armed with an RPG. According to a Capt. Jack Hanzlik via Fox News,U.S “forces were engaged in combat all that day with individuals that fit the description of the men in that video. Their age, their weapons, and the fact that they were within the distance of the forces that had been engaged made it apparent these guys were potentially a threat.”

The video goes on to depict the arrival of a van carrying Saleh Mutashar and his two children on the scene. While attempting to rescue the wounded and take them to the hospital, the group was fired upon, resulting in the wounding of both children and the killing of their father.

According to Yochai Benkler, the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies and Co-Director of the Berkman Centerfor Internet & Society at HLS, the Bradley trial invites us to ask ourselves if we are “the America of Japanese Internment and Joseph McCarthy, or are we the America of Ida Tarbell and the Pentagon Papers? What kind of country makes communicating with the press for publication to the American public a death-eligible offense?” He goes on to assert that  the successful prosecution of Bradley Manning could be a significant “coup for Al Qaeda to have maimed our constitutional spirit.”

After the administrator’s attempts to eviscerate the 4th and 5th amendments, as well as Bill of Attainder clause,  in addition to the ongoing battle to intimidate journalists and eliminate various first amendment protections, Professor Benkler’s words may be more truth than hyperbole.


Jonathan Nomamiukor is the Managing Editor of the Harvard Law Record.

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Record.

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