Military prosecutors claim documents leaked by PFC Bradley Manning were found in Bin Laden raid

Fort Meade, Maryland. PHOTO CREDIT: Jenny Jiang

FORT MEADE, Maryland — Military prosecutors claimed that classified documents leaked by PFC Bradley Manning to WikiLeaks ended up in the hands of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

This allegation appeared to form the basis of the prosecution’s Article 104 “aiding the enemy” charge against Manning. If convicted, Manning faces life imprisonment.

(The Article 104 charge carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty, which the government has indicated it will not seek.)

“Enemies of the United States reviewed information provided by PFC Manning,” said Capt. Joe Morrow during the prosecution’s opening statement. “You will hear evidence that during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, government officials collected several items of digital media. On one of these items of digital media was the entire CIDNE Afghanistan database released by WikiLeaks as well as Department of State information.”

Morrow said that Osama bin Laden had “ask[ed] for and receive[ed]” the CIDNE Afghanistan reports, ostensibly obtained through WikiLeaks.

However, the prosecution’s opening statement did not address whether and how the CIDNE-Afghanistan database was actually used by Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda operatives against the United States.

CIDNE stands for “Combined Information and Data Network Exchange”. According to Manning’s written statement dated Jan. 29, 2013, the CIDNE databases that he accessed contained “human intelligence (HUMIT) reports, psychological operation (PSYOP) reports, engagement reports, counter-improvised device (CIED) reports, [significant activities] SIGACT reports, targeting reports, social-cultural reports, civil affairs reports, [and] human terrain reporting.”

On Feb. 28th, Manning pleaded guilty to certain lesser offenses of mishandling classified documents for which he’ll face a maximum of 20 years in prison. Manning admitted to copying the CIDNE-Afghanistan database to his personal computer on Jan. 8, 2010 while stationed in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Hammer near Baghdad. He wrote that he submitted the CIDNE-Afghanistan as well as the CIDNE-Iraq databases to WikiLeaks on Feb. 3, 2013 while he was on leave in the Washington, D.C. area after his outreach efforts to the Washington Post, New York Times, and Politico failed.

In his written statement, Manning explained why he decided to send the classified CIDNE databases to WikiLeaks:

“For me, the SIGACTs represented the on-the-ground reality of both the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I felt we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides. I began to become depressed at the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in, year-after-year…

“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE [Iraq] and CIDNE [Afghanistan databases]…this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general, as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan…The information would help document the true costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Manning also wrote that he saw a need for more open diplomacy and his belief that “the world would be a better place if states would avoid making secret pacts and deals with and against each other”, which motivated him to leak the Department of State cables to WikiLeaks. Below are excerpts from Manning’s statement explaining his decision:

“The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this type of information should become public…

“I also began to think that they documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world…

“I thought these cables were a prime example of the need for a more open diplomacy…I believed that the public release of these cable would not damage the U.S. However, I did believe the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations.”

The prosecution painted a different – and less noble – motive for Manning’s unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

“The evidence will show that PFC Manning used his military training to gain the notoriety he craved,” said Morrow. “This is not a case about an accidental spill of classified information. This is not a case about a few documents left in a barrack…This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of documents from classified databases and then literally dumped that information on to the Internet and into the hands of the enemy – material, he knew based on his training and experience, could put the lives and welfare of his fellow soldiers at risk. This is a case about what happens when arrogance meets access to sensitive information.”

Morrow pointed out that Manning’s training as an Army intelligence analyst included repeated warnings about the dangers posed by intelligence leaks and the enemy’s use of the Internet and websites like WikiLeaks.

“PFC Manning knew the dangers of unauthorized disclosure to an organization like WikiLeaks and he ignored those dangers,” said Morrow. “The evidence will show that the accused knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy.”

However, under cross-examination, two instructors who taught Manning in his Advanced Individual Training (AIT) as an all-source intelligence analyst admitted that WikiLeaks was not specifically mentioned in the materials covered in the course materials.

Manning’s supporters have expressed alarm at the government’s decision to charge Manning with “aiding the enemy” simply because some of the information he leaked were obtained by an Al Qaeda leader through a third-party.

“The theory of the government is that because news media ended up – supposedly – in the hands of Osama bin Laden, that’s what proves that Manning aided the enemy,” said Jesselyn Radack, a former Department of Justice legal ethics advisor and whistleblower, at a panel discussion on June 2nd. “Therefore, if you’re unlucky where Osama bin Laden or some other bad guy to have read anything you wrote or posted on the Internet or Facebook or wherever, you could be charged with aiding the enemy. It is an absurd, dangerous yet serious theory that the judge is allowing to go forward.”

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2 Comments on “Military prosecutors claim documents leaked by PFC Bradley Manning were found in Bin Laden raid

  1. Pingback: Manning's supporters denounce "aiding the enemy" charge, accuse government of waging war against whistleblowers & journalists | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: PFC Bradley Manning's defense focuses on his humanist values & "good intention" | What The Folly?!

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