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(108,903 posts)
Tue Aug 6, 2013, 07:24 AM Aug 2013

The Manning Verdict: Obama's Defining Injustice [View all]


Former President Richard Nixon tried to use the Espionage Act to put the leaker of the Pentagon Papers -- about the planning of the Vietnam War -- behind bars. Now Obama may succeed where Nixon failed. Here, a Manning supporter protests outside the trial.

It was never an issue whether Bradley Manning violated US law. Manning pleaded guilty to 10 charges at the beginning of his military trial. The maximum sentence for those charges was 20 years in prison -- an intolerable sentence, but unlikely to be the extent of his punishment.

That punishment could now be a 136-year prison sentence. Prosecutors have brought in the big guns -- and invoked the Espionage Act, which was passed in 1917 in reaction to fears of German spies and saboteurs.

It is political despotism to use this act in a trial that has to do with neither espionage nor sabotage. It means the defense can no longer argue that the defendant harmed no one, that he acted in the public interest. It deprives Manning of the only basis to justify his actions and the opportunity to avoid a guilty verdict.

This is why the appropriate reaction to this verdict would be to reverse it. It would be overzealous, both from a legal and political standpoint, to pass judgment on Manning as a warning to other possible politically motivated offenders. The 25-year-old soldier, a man who is unconvincing as a heroic figure and burdened with complexes, is the most recent casualty in a hysterically prolonged "war on terror."
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