PFC Bradley Manning court martial: Summary of the prosecution’s pre-sentencing closing argument on Aug. 19, 2013

Reporter’s note: I attended the pre-sentencing hearing of United States v. PFC Bradley Manning in Fort Meade, Maryland on Aug. 19, 2013, and I am making available my notes (with some omissions and minimal edits) of the court proceedings due to the limited public access to official transcripts in the Manning case.

Summary of the prosecution’s pre-sentencing closing argument in United States v. PFC Bradley Manning on Aug. 19, 2013. The hearing was presided by Judge Denise Lind in Fort Meade, Maryland. 

Capt. Joe Morrow, one of the prosecutors, asked Judge Denise Lind to sentence PFC Bradley Manning to a minimum of 60 years in confinement, reduced rank to Private E-1, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay, and a $100,000 fine.  He said the prosecution’s request for the minimum 60-year confinement is not made “lightly” and that Manning’s actions and repeated abuse of his SIPRNET [Secret Internet Protocol Network] access and the damage caused by his disclosures are “egregious enough to warrant 60 years”.

Morrow: “The United States does not make this request lightly. PFC Manning is young and he pled guilty to some lesser included offenses. But considering those factors and the defense case extenuation of mitigation, PFC Manning’s actions, PFC Manning’s intent within the course of his deployment to Iraq, his repeated abuse of his access to SIPRNET while on duty, all those factors are egregious enough to warrant 60 years…He’s been convicted of serious crimes. He betrayed the United States, and for that betrayal he deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in confinement.”

Morrow: “Your honor, if there’s anything you take away during this sentencing deliberation is this: There may not be a soldier in the history of the United States Army who displayed such an extreme disregard for the judgment of the officers appointed above him and the orders of the President of the United States.”

Morrow: “He believed that he – among all the users of classified systems in the United States government – was knowledgeable and intelligent enough to decide what information deserved protection and what information didn’t. In the process, he created a grave risk of harm to national security due to the volume of information he disclosed. He disrupted ongoing military and diplomatic mission, and endangered the well-being of innocent civilians and soldiers.”

Morrow asked Lind to consider following factors:

  • Manning’s “extreme disregard” and the “grave risk” created due to volume of records released.
  • Morrow emphasized that the 14 witnesses called by prosecution held no “personal animosity for the accused”; they objectively described the impact of Manning’s disclosures.
  • “This is a case about PFC Manning…The Army is not on trial. The command is not on trial. MSG. Adkins is not on trial. Behavioral health is not on trial,” said Morrow. He pointed out that they are not responsible for Manning’s crimes. “PFC manning is solely responsible for his crime. PFC Manning is solely responsible for the impacts,” said Morrow. “He was a determined insider who knowingly took advantage and exploited an imperfect system with vulnerabilities. Every day at his SIPRNET computer was another day to stick his finger in the eye of the classification system.”

Morrow then went on to summarize the testimonies of 14 prosecution witnesses on impacts of Manning’s leaks to the State and Defense Departments. “The court learned that there was serious and substantial risk of harm caused by PFC Manning and that may go without saying based on the volume of information released. What the court also learned [is]…how far-reaching the actual impact was. The disclosures were felt in the operational and strategic levels militarily and diplomatically, serious impacts to bilateral military relationships and to diplomatic relationships.”

On the leak of 250,000 Department of State secret cables, Morrow said Manning’s actions weren’t for greater good. The disclosures damaged the reputation of the United States and undermined trust of allies built over decades. “It was destructive,” said Morrow.

Morrow rebutted some of the points raised by the defense during the pre-sentencing phase:

  • The Command did its due diligence in terms of determining who was fit to be deployed. “No red flags, no reason for concern. PFC Maning seemed squared away” prior to deployment, said Morrow.
  • Manning’s unit wasn’t perfect (no unit in the Army is) but they did best they could with the information they had at time.
  • The Army is not in the business of banning soldiers with mental health issues from service. “It does not do the Army any favors and it certainly doesn’t do society any favors. Seeking mental health treatment even in the military intelligence community is not an impediment to serving,” said Morrow.
  • The command managed risks properly with the information they had at the time.
  • Derogs [or reports of unfavorable information for security determination] are for serious offenses not “temper tantrums”. Filing a derog can result in the revocation of a soldier’s security clearance.
  • Even if Capt. Steven Lim was notified about Manning’s gender dysphoria by Master Sgt. Paul Adkins, it would not have prevented Manning’s crimes. “We know that because all the information that was stolen and compromised from the SIPRNET in this case happened before 24 April 2010,” said Morrow. In April 2010, Manning sent a photo of himself dressed as a woman to Master Sgt. Adkins, revealing his gender identity struggles.
  • People in the command team interacted with Manning and reached out to include him in activities. “Other than occasional outbursts of anger, there was nothing out of the ordinary. The only exception to that is when PFC Manning attacked Ms. Showman,” said Morrow. He noted that after the May 8, 2010 incident, Manning was removed from the SCIF and reassigned to the supply room and a derog was filed against Manning. Manning’s outbursts were anger-related. He didn’t like being corrected. It wasn’t uncommon. Master Sgt. Adkins clearly cared about his soldiers. “Master Sgt. Adkins used his experience, his personal interaction with Manning over the course of his time while in Iraq, and applied his best judgment of PFC Manning based on the evidence in front of him,” said Morrow.

“The focus should remain squarely on PFC Manning…This case is about him, what he did,” said Morrow.

Manning may have suffered “severe emotional distress” at the time of offenses but, Morrow asked, what did that have anything to do with stealing and disclosing classified information?

Morrow disputed claims by the defense’s witnesses – Army Capt. Michael Worsley [clinical psychologist who treated Manning at FOB Hammer in Iraq] and Navy Capt. David Moulton [psychiatrist who interviewed Manning for a total of 21 hours in Fort Leavenworth] – that Manning was isolated in a hostile environment. He said Manning was “not alone” and FOB Hammer was “not a hostile environment”. The experts’ testimonies are only as good as the records they’re given by the defense.

Morrow pointed out that even after Manning achieved a “breakthrough” and revealed his gender identity struggles to an Army psychologist [Capt. Michael Worsley], Manning stole 76,000 email addresses of U.S. service members in Iraq. “Capt. Worsley testified that PFC Manning finally felt more comfortable. The secret was out about his gender identity. It was a big relief. PFC Manning appeared more positive,” said Morrow. “PFC Manning’s gender dysphoria was causing extreme stress for PFC Manning – stress that was impairing his judgment, causing him to act out and leak classified information. Why didn’t he stop?”

Morrow argued that Capt. Moulton’s testimony of Manning’s gender dysphoria, narcissistic personality trait, and post-adolescent idealistic phase were based on “unreliable” and “self-serving” statements by Manning. “What [Moulton] was unable to satisfactorily explain was what any of this has to do with stealing and transmitting classified government information over the course of six months,” said Morrow.

Morrow asked Lind to “divorce” Manning’s personal issues from her decision on sentencing, challenging why those issues matter to the crimes committed by Manning and his intent. “The United States is not disputing that PFC Manning may have been struggling with his gender identity. The government’s only question is what that matters. What does that have to do with PFC Manning’s crimes, his intent, his intentional violation of the law on repeated occasions?” said Morrow. He pointed out that there are other soldiers who joined the Army who have suffered abuse, who grew up with alcoholic parents, who have similar stories as Bradley Manning – who joined military for GI benefits and for a better life. “Where are the other PFC Manning?” Morrow asked. His troubled background should not be an excuse for his actions. “Sometimes soldiers can be disillusioned by war and sometimes soldiers become disillusioned by garrison rules. For every soldier PFC Manning didn’t get along with, there were thousands of fellow soldiers building schools, protecting civilians from sectarian violence, contributing to humanitarian aid missions, and somewhere along the way, PFC Manning forgot about that,” said Morrow. “It wasn’t the military’s fault. It wasn’t the command’s fault. It wasn’t because he saw something horrible. It was because he had an agenda – that was clear from the SIPRNET searches for information related to WikiLeaks in late November 2009.”

Morrow said that Manning volunteered to join Army, received training as an intelligence analyst. He said Bradley Manning took an oath and broke it and put others at risk. Bradley Manning thought he could do what he wanted without regard for the consequences. “He took an oath and he knowingly broke it. He put others at risk through his deliberate actions and he impacted the mission,” said Morrow.

Furthermore, Morrow asked Lind to consider other factors in her sentencing, including:

  • CIDNE Afghanistan and Iraq SIGACTs didn’t contain just historical snapshots. The SIGACTs leaked by Manning were current through December 2009. The State Department cables leaked were current through February 2010. “Current information have more value and PFC Manning knew that,” said Morrow.
  • PFC Manning committed the crimes throughout his deployment in Iraq. He abused his access to the SIPRNET while on duty, from November 2009 to May 2010.
  • PFC Manning abused a position of trust as an intelligence analyst. He had signed non-disclosure agreements and was held to a higher standard. “He repeatedly took matters of national security into his own hands, abusing the special trust our government places in the hands of intelligence analysts and those with security clearances,” said Morrow.
  • The volume of classified information compromised by PFC Manning “almost defies belief” and is “unprecedented in our nation’s history”. “As we are relying more and more on databases and information systems, it’s important that the court account for the role that the volume of information played in the crisis that followed with the public disclosure of information PFC Manning stole,” said Morrow.
  • After PFC Manning was kicked out of the SCIF and reassigned to the storage room for punching Spec. Showman, he was “humbled but not deterred” and went on to steal the email addresses of U.S. troops in Iraq.
  • PFC Manning was “well aware of weaknesses in the system” and “deliberately exploited them”. He was a “determined insider”.

Morrow: “There is value in deterrence…This court must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information. National security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously…Think about the volume of information in this case – more than 700,000 records….Think about the initiatives and work that were brought to a halt by what he did. Think about the military and diplomatic relationships that were severed. Think about the impact on the mission. If you violate the trust of your superiors, if your actions [put] soldiers you serve with at risk, if you act on your narrow self-interest, if you disclose information to our adversaries, if you betray your country, you did not deserve the mercy of a court of law.”

Morrow: “PFC Manning took an oath. He knew what he was doing. The Army didn’t abandon PFC Manning; PFC Manning abandoned the Army. The Army didn’t betray PFC Manning; PFC Manning betrayed the Army.”



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