military prosecutors will face an additional burden at whistleblower bradley manning’s trial

by Tim Phillips

The trial of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of the largest unauthorized disclosure of confidential documents in history, is scheduled to begin in June. Today the military judge on his case, Colonel Denise Lind, imposed a more demanding burden on the prosecution regarding the Espionage Act charge against Manning. Specifically, Lind ruled that to show Manning violated the Act, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had reason to believe his actions would harm the U.S. or aid a foreign power. According to a Los Angeles Times editorial from January 12,

A prosecutor indicated that the Army would proceed with … information that Osama bin Laden asked an Al Qaeda associate for some of the material that Manning allegedly gave to WikiLeaks. By that theory, the New York Times, which ran some WikiLeaks material, could be accused of espionage if Bin Laden picked up a copy of the paper.

Manning already pled guilty to 10 charges and confessed to providing documents to WikiLeaks. Although his plea exposed him to up to 20 years in prison, it was not part of a deal with the government. Thus, for disclosing data such as video footage of a U.S. helicopter gunship attack that killed two Reuters journalists (and ten other people) in Baghdad in 2007, he could still be sentenced to life in prison.