Geof Stone on the Bradley Manning Case
Bradley Manning has offered to plead guilty to charges that he unlawfully transferred classified information to persons (in this case, WikiLeaks) unauthorized to receive it. The maximum penalty for this offense is 10 years in prison. Manning also offered to plead guilty to nine other charges. For these 10 pleas combined he could spend as long as 20 years in prison.
The military prosecutors insist that this penalty is insufficient. They also want to convict Manning under a separate statute for aiding the enemy (in this case, al Qaeda) by providing them with classified information. The penalty for this offense is life in prison.
The military's argument that Manning violated the aiding the enemy statute is clearly ill-founded. That statute is intended for situations in which the defendant intends to aid the enemy. No one argues that that was Manning's intent. By every account, his purpose was not to aid al Qaeda but to bring to light what he thought were governmental and military abuses. Even if he violated the unauthorized disclosure law when he shared this information with WikiLeaks, he was not guilty of intending to aid the enemy.