PFC Manning Offers Plea Deal, Elects Judge-Alone Court-Martial

Off the AP wire, through The Army Times,*

y David Dishneau – The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Nov 8, 2012 7:15:19 EST

FORT MEADE, Md. — The Army private charged with sending reams of government secrets to WikiLeaks is offering to plead guilty to some offenses.

Pfc. Bradley Manning’s civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, revealed the offer Wednesday during a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade. The hearing continues Thursday.

Coombs said Manning isn’t pleading guilty to the offenses charged by the government. Rather, he is offering to take responsibility for less serious offenses that are encapsulated within the charged crimes.

Even if the court accepts the offer, military prosecutors could still try to prove Manning guilty of the more serious charges. They include aiding the enemy, punishable by life imprisonment.

Coombs also said Manning has elected to be tried by a military judge, not a jury, at his trial in February.

*Also available here if there’s a paywall issue at Army Times.

There’s also an announcement his lawyer’s website that pretty concisely explains what he’s doing.

This is completely new to me.  I haven’t seen anything else on it yet, and I haven’t talked to the military lawyers whose brains I sometimes pick on this stuff, so you know what I know.

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75 replies
  1. 1
    Corey says:

    Well, here’s the opportunity the newly-unfettered President has to do right by Manning. We’ll see what happens, and we’ll see if online liberal promises of “feet to the fire!” were worth the pixels they were printed on…

  2. 2
    Ben Franklin says:

    They won’t accept the plea to minor offenses. He has to be a cautionary tale to prevent any more embarrassment to diplomacies excesses.

  3. 3
    Maude says:

    Manning has a good lawyer.
    I didn’t know you could pick and choose what to be guilty of these days.

  4. 4
    Corner Stone says:

    so you know what I know

    I feel so…lost..confused. Gah! This is horrible!

  5. 5
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Maude: The government doesn’t have to agree to the plea deal. They can agree to it, with the proviso that they can attempt to convict him of the higher offenses. Typically when this kind of plea deal is offered, it includes a maximum sentence, but allows for a lesser sentence should the Judge determine such.

  6. 6
    Ben Franklin says:

    wow. this thread is red-hot.

  7. 7
    ericblair says:

    @Corey:

    Well, here’s the opportunity the newly-unfettered President has to do right by Manning.

    Which would be what?

  8. 8
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @Ben Franklin: Kay (and, in a lesser sense, Tom) decided to stomp all over this thread, because shut up that’s why.

  9. 9
    Ben Franklin says:

    Allow me to add my 5 cents.

    Now that we have a 2nd Term, I should like to announce that, henceforth there is no need for discouraging rational critique of Obama. So ‘shut the fuck up’ is passe

    That is all….carry on.

  10. 10
    Corey says:

    @ericblair: Accept the plea deal.

  11. 11
    Corner Stone says:

    @Ben Franklin: You are a treasure, my friend.
    To quote the great patriot John J. Rambo:
    “Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don’t turn it off!”

  12. 12
    TooManyJens says:

    @Pinkamena Panic: Right, because FPers stepping on one another’s toes is some kind of conspiracy and not a regular feature of this place.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Corey: That’s not within the President’s authority. Nor can he legally direct the Convening Authority to do that.
    Now, I don’t know why the CA wouldn’t, accept it, but I’m just a retired grunt NCO with pretensions to blogger stardom.

  15. 15
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Now that a hard fought election has given Obama the opportunity to fight hard for four more years I’m wondering how many comments will begin with “Now is Obama’s chance to…” That opening will be followed by butthurt because Obama didn’t wave his magic wand and instantly provide the commenter with his or her favoritest rainbow-farting hobbyhorse.

  16. 16
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Pinkamena Panic: Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.

  17. 17
    Maude says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:
    OMG He’s worse than Bush, he sold us out.

  18. 18
    burnspbesq says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    The key word there is “rational.” I eagerly await your initial attempts to qualify as such.

  19. 19
    burnspbesq says:

    @Corey:

    What is it that he has offered to plead to, and what is the maximum sentence for those offenses? No details are available on his civilian counsel’s website, or in the linked article.

    Until we know that, it’s difficult to reach any conclusion as to whether it’s a deal that the prosecution should consider accepting.

  20. 20
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    They won’t accept the plea to minor offenses. He has to be a cautionary tale to prevent any more embarrassment to diplomacies excesses.

    This attitude is really pisses me off. The issue isn’t that Manning “embarrassed” anyone; it’s that he violated sections of the US Code regarding the disclosure of classified information.

    When you receive a clearance (after having had your background extensively investigated at no small cost in time and money), you are briefed, repeatedly, on what your obligations and responsibilities are, and what the penalties are if you don’t meet them. You sign a bunch of documents stating that you understand all this. You promise, in writing, that you can be trusted to safeguard classified information. There’s nothing in there about making any judgement calls about what classified data is really sensitive vs. what’s merely “embarrassing”.

    There are no mitigating circumstances here. If you decide to deliberately leak classified information, regardless of its content, you have to know that you are facing serious prison time. Sometimes, it may be worth it; exposing atrocities like My Lai, for instance, may be more important to me than my personal freedom (I like to think so, anyway).

    I don’t know what Manning was thinking, but to pretend that what he did was “no big deal” is disingenuous at best.

    There are any number of reasons why seemingly innocuous messages about diplomatic functions may be classified. Guest lists should be obvious; knowing which government or diplomatic officials are going to be in a particular place at a particular time would be valuable to assassins, rebels, terrorists, etc. But even things like how much wine to order is information that someone could use to gain access to either steal more information or to cause mayhem.

  21. 21
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    Can you name any civilian casualties from the leaks?

  22. 22
    Ben Franklin says:

    One of the classified documents was that the Strait of Gibraltar is a vital shipping lane and that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is rich in minerals.

    The huge vat of classified material is just another way of keeping us complacent and ignorant. Neither you or anyone else needs broad-brushing like this.

  23. 23
    Corner Stone says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    This attitude is really pisses me off. The issue isn’t that Manning “embarrassed” anyone; it’s that he violated sections of the US Code regarding the disclosure of classified information.

    Of course he “embarrassed” multiple someones.

  24. 24
    Emma says:

    @Ben Franklin: That does NOT matter. IF he leaked information he knew was classified he committed an illegal act. If he thought it worth the price, then he pays the price. You can’t break into a house and then claim you’re innocent because all you took was a jar of peanut butter.

    I am certainly not happy about the way he seems to have been treated while being held. But that is a different discussion.

  25. 25
    TooManyJens says:

    Why would he choose to have his case heard only by a judge and not a jury? I’m not familiar with court-martial proceedings.

  26. 26
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    Can you name any civilian casualties from the leaks?

    Can you name any agents, diplomatic staff, or local informants who weren’t compromised by the leaks?

  27. 27
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Emma:

    It does matter. It goes directly to the effort to hide civilian casualties. The rest of it is window dressing. The only moral crime Manning may have committed is releasing all the info with prejudice; a rash decision. But I repeat, there is no evidence anyone was compromised due to the docs. It’s the burden of the Manning detractors to prove such to be the case. Just breaking the Law may be enough for Authoritarians, but remember the SCLC was breaking the Law by going into White Only restaurants.

  28. 28
    Ben Franklin says:

    Chime in, anytime Segretti.

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    Can you name any agents, diplomatic staff, or local informants who weren’t compromised by the leaks?

    Yes, CIA Agent John Clark. I just usually call him Mr. Clark. He was not compromised.
    Wait…

  30. 30
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Wait…

    lol…

  31. 31

    If he leaked only the information necessary to disclose a crime or atrocity, then he might have my sympathy, but a data-dump does not make a person a whistleblower.

  32. 32
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    Yes, we overclassify stuff. Yes, we classify stuff that really isn’t sensitive. And that means exactly dick as a defense. Again, there is nothing in the briefings Manning received or in the documents he signed that take the content of the information into account. There’s no sliding scale for inane vs. embarassing vs. sensitive.

    Jesus Christ, why is this such a fucking difficult concept to grasp?

    @Corner Stone

    But “embarrassment” is not why he’s on trial, is it?

  33. 33
    Ben Franklin says:

    @The Other Bob:

    That opinion is not too far from my own, as I referred to his dump as rash, above.

    But i think the term whistleblower could still apply.

  34. 34
    Corner Stone says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey: It’s curious to not include it in the assessment of what’s going on here.
    If this were just about an alleged crime and a trial then he wouldn’t have been treated in a demonstratively punitive manner for the last 2+ years.

  35. 35
    David Koch says:

    Warren/Manning 2016!

  36. 36
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I’m with you guys on Manning’s treatment; there was no excuse for that, and the people who authorized it should themselves be keelhauled for it.

  37. 37
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    And info about behind-the-scenes negotiations with Japan to get their whaling fleet out of Antarctic calving waters, and State Department analysis memos (Berlusconi’s personal relationship with Putin being an example), and- as the blogger of the post has pointed out in the past- classified personnel records of servicemen and women…Just a few examples of the less-than-inane docs released in the dump.

    But just keep picking those cherries.

  38. 38
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    But i think the term whistleblower could still apply.

    And if [whoever made the dump] had limited the dump to that which required scrutiny, I’d have no disagreement whatsoever.

    However, the method used in making the dump still wasn’t legal. Remember that Ellsberg, who used similar methods, wasn’t found not guilty- charges were dropped because the methods used to investigate Ellsberg were so illegal and widespread that the government had to drop the charges because the evidence had been so tainted by its gathering.

  39. 39
    TooManyJens says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    The rest of it is window dressing. The only moral crime Manning may have committed is releasing all the info with prejudice; a rash decision. But I repeat, there is no evidence anyone was compromised due to the docs. It’s the burden of the Manning detractors to prove such to be the case.

    Recklessness doesn’t have to result in harm to be wrong. If I go get +8 and try to drive home, I’m guilty of a crime (both morally and legally) whether or not I actually run anyone over.

    I’m sympathetic to what Manning was trying to do, but that doesn’t make any old method of doing it OK.

  40. 40
    Ben Franklin says:

    @TooManyJens:

    I agree. But the punishment should be mitigated, and that won’t happen because an example must be made. I’m hoping iron-clad protections for whistleblowers per se, will be forthcoming

  41. 41
    liberal says:

    @TooManyJens:

    If I go get +8 and try to drive home, I’m guilty of a crime (both morally and legally) whether or not I actually run anyone over.

    Unlike the non-conscripts who went to Iraq and murdered over 100,000 people; they’re guilty of nothing, morally or legally or otherwise, since they were just following orders, amirite?

  42. 42
    liberal says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    Just a few examples of the less-than-inane docs released in the dump.

    Absolutely. Releasing any of those is a crime far more heinous than murdering 10^5+ brown folks in an aggressive war.

  43. 43
    liberal says:

    @Emma:

    You can’t break into a house and then claim you’re innocent because all you took was a jar of peanut butter.

    But you can participate in a war of aggression, help murder hundreds of thousands of people, and claim innocence because you’re just following orders, right?

  44. 44
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @liberal:

    The problem here being that the whistleblower had blown the whistle once with the release of the Collateral Murder vid, which wasn’t part of a huge dump along with unrelated material.

  45. 45
    David Koch says:

    after all the money the base donated to them, Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren have SOLD U OUT by ignoring Manning’s plight. They didn’t even take a second of time to mention Manning in their victory speeches.

    Gawd, they’re worse than Bush!

    Not one more dime until Warren and Grayson hold open and legitimate hearings on this matter!

  46. 46
    Ben Franklin says:

    @David Koch:

    Gawd, they’re worse than Bush!

    Can’t you admit that something needs to be done to protect whistleblowers?

  47. 47
    burnspbesq says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    Can you name any civilian casualties from the leaks?

    Sadly typical. Can you not understand that that’s not the point?

  48. 48
    burnspbesq says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Yes, CIA Agent John Clark.

    What about Domingo Chavez?

  49. 49
    Ben Franklin says:

    @David Koch:

    Can’t you see the need to protect whistleblowers? Please answer without regard to Manning.

  50. 50
    Ben Franklin says:

    @burnspbesq:

    It’s probably not your point, Segretti esq. I’ll bite; what is yer fucking point?

  51. 51
    Ben Franklin says:

    @burnspbesq:

    You mean, it’s not your point Segretti Esq.

    OK. I’ll bite. What the fuck is yer point?

  52. 52
    Ben Franklin says:

    This is not a live blog, Cole…WTF?

  53. 53
    StarStorm says:

    Christ man, get your hand off of the reply button.

  54. 54
    Ben Franklin says:

    @StarStorm:

    I hit it once, FYI.

    Like, I’m the first? GFY

  55. 55
    Soonergrunt says:

    @TooManyJens: He’s probably banking on the Judge being less likely to convict based upon emotional responses.
    Of course, if he is convicted, Military Judges tend to give harsher sentences than Members Panels due to the way panels are allowed to asses punishment.

  56. 56
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    Yes, we overclassify stuff. Yes, we classify stuff that really isn’t sensitive. And that means exactly dick as a defense. Again, there is nothing in the briefings Manning received or in the documents he signed that take the content of the information into account. There’s no sliding scale for inane vs. embarassing vs. sensitive.
    Jesus Christ, why is this such a fucking difficult concept to grasp?

    Because they don’t wish to grasp it. SATSQ

  57. 57
    Ben Franklin says:

    Because they don’t wish to grasp it. SATSQ

    Bullshit reply.

  58. 58
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    Can’t you see the need to protect whistleblowers? Please answer without regard to Manning

    There are already whistleblower protections in the DoD.

  59. 59
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Ben Franklin: Really? Here’s a thought experiment–go speeding past a police officer, and then when he pulls you over tell him that you think the speed limit on that stretch of road should be higher and therefore he shouldn’t write you a ticket.

    I’ll bet you get invited to Traffic Court. You could try the same argument there, and I’ll bet you end up paying the fine.

  60. 60
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Heh. Good example. When you get cited for vehicle code, you’re guilty until your prove your own innocence.

    That’s yer argument?

  61. 61
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    Bullshit reply.

    Because you keep making a bullshit argument.

    If I rob a bank for a million dollars, do I get a pass because I gave all the money to widows and orphans? No. If I disclose classified information without authorization, do I get a free pass if the release doesn’t directly lead to casualties or compromised missions? No.

    There are established whistleblower protocols and protections within the DoD. Dumping a bunch of classified emails on a public Web site falls outside of those protocols. Hence, charges.

    This is not hard.

    I agree that Manning’s initial treatment was abominable, and that the people who authorized it need to be brought up on charges themselves. But that doesn’t give Manning a free pass for what he did.

  62. 62
    Ben Franklin says:

    http://www.whistleblowers.org/.....temid=141@Grumpy Code Monkey:

    Asked and answered; Do you need a reading comprehension course?

    Why is the threat to prosecute WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act so potentially destructive? The law is not restricted to properly prohibiting the release of classified information. The law is not restricted to protecting legitimate government secrets. The law broadly prohibits any publication by anyone (newspapers included) of information related to national security, which may cause an “injury to the United States”.

    Who determines whether national security is actually at stake? Who determines what constitutes an “injury to the United States”? In 1917 the courts bent over backwards to permit the justice department to indict and prosecute thousands of dissidents. Loyalty to America meant nothing. The first amendment’s protections for freedom of speech were mocked. Opposition to US war policies dictated who was jailed.

    There are responsible mechanisms policing truly abusive leaks. The Espionage Act is not such a tool.

    The attorney general should stop trying to resurrect the Espionage Act, and instead dust off his copy of the US constitution. If he has any question as to the meaning of the first amendment, he should read James Madison’s 1789 speech, in which he introduced the bill of rights in the first Congress of the United States: “Freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.”

  63. 63
    Felonius Monk says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    favoritest rainbow-farting hobbyhorse.

    May I abscond with this?

  64. 64
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Ben Franklin: No, it was quick on the way out the door. GCM’s at 61 is much better.

  65. 65
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey: And there are remedies under military law for his mistreatment while in PreTrial Confinement.
    None of those remedies obtain to Servicemembers who have been acquitted or had charges dropped, however. They only obtain to those who have been found guilty either at trial or by plea.

  66. 66
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    um hm. You might want to read the link I left @ 62. Youse guys are real hard-cases, ain’tcha?

  67. 67
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    um hm. You might want to read the link I left @ 62. Youse guys are real hard-cases, ain’tcha?

  68. 68
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    In what universe is this a freedom of speech issue?

  69. 69
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Ben Franklin: Let me tell you what will happen when Manning’s attorney attempts that argument in front of the Military Judge….

    Fuck all.

    The Trial Counsel will point out that Manning didn’t do any of the things that qualify for coverage under that law. He will also point out that Wikileaks is not under indictment here. He will further point out that there is no availability of a whistleblower defense under the military laws that PFC Manning is charged with violating. Further, he’ll point out that there’s no way in hell that Manning could possibly have read any more than a tiny number of the documents that he compromised, and therefore can’t be a whistleblower for the vast majority of that work. Also since the vast, vast, vast majority of the stuff that he exposed described legal activities, there’s no availability of whistleblower protections for that, either.
    If Manning takes the stand, the TC will directly question him on that point and get him under oath as to those facts.
    Some of the charges he is facing are merely about him unlawfully accessing information. It is not an element of those charges that the information was passed on to any third party. It is enough to secure a conviction to show that he intentionally violated his clearance and viewed CM that he wasn’t cleared to view.
    Other charges and specifications deal with him passing classified information on to parties who were not cleared to receive it. It is not an element of those charges that the information was published, exhibited, sold, folded, spindled, mutilated, or turned into paper airplanes. To secure a conviction, the Government need only show that he intentionally passed classified materials to persons who were not cleared to receive or view such.

    The fact that the law doesn’t say what you want it to say is utterly fucking irrelevant to the matter of the US vs PFC Bradley Manning.

  70. 70
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Soonergrunt: Of course, Mr. Coombs won’t attempt that argument during the findings phase. He’s not fucking stupid. He might make mention of it during sentencing phase, but it won’t likely be very availing.

  71. 71
    Ben Franklin says:

    Like I said, there’s no harder head than the Authoritarian.

    You can’t see a point beyond the case law and precedent. Myopic and shallow.

  72. 72
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Ben Franklin: This is a military Court-Martial. There really IS NOTHING beyond the case law and precedent. That this bothers you is irrelevant.

  73. 73
    Ben Franklin says:

    All perception is selective, and you have narrowed yours down quite conveniently.

  74. 74
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    Let me get this straight; enforcing a law as written is authoritarianism? Seriously?

  75. 75
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    All perception is selective, and you have narrowed yours down quite conveniently.

    /me holds up mirror

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