Despite an acquittal on the most serious “aiding the enemy” charge against him, today’s verdict against the US Private Bradley Manning reveals the US government’s misplaced priorities on national security, said Amnesty International this evening.
Amnesty International’s Senior Director of International Law and Policy Widney Brown said:
“The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.
“Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing – reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government. You investigate and prosecute those who destroy the credibility of the government by engaging in acts such as torture which are prohibited under the US Constitution and in international law.
“The government’s pursuit of the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge was a serious overreach of the law, not least because there was no credible evidence of Manning’s intent to harm the USA by releasing classified information to WikiLeaks.
“Since the attacks of September 11, we have seen the US government use the issue of national security to defend a whole range of actions that are unlawful under international and domestic law.
“It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning’s trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you, no holds barred, if you’re thinking of revealing evidence of its unlawful behaviour.”
The court martial today found Manning guilty of a range of additional charges, including ten lesser charges relating to misuse of classified information to which he had already pleaded guilty. Amnesty insisted that any sentence imposed for the other charges must take into account information relating to Manning’s reasonable belief that he was exposing serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Amnesty believes it undermines accountability when the US government is so selective about who it chooses to investigate and prosecute. This is particularly true when they seem intent on punishing those who reveal unlawful government behaviour and protecting those who actually engaged in or ordered such behaviour.
The hundreds of thousands of documents Manning released to WikiLeaks included videos and dossiers that pointed to potential human rights violations – including breaches of international humanitarian law – by US troops abroad and the CIA closer to home.
Earlier this month Amnesty described the judge’s decision not to drop the charge accusing Manning of “aiding the enemy” as ludicrous and as a decision which “makes a mockery of the US military court system”.