The government delivered its closing argument in the sentencing phase of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial at Fort Meade. During the argument, the government recommended the military judge sentence Manning to sixty years in prison.
After reminding the court that this case was about what happens when “arrogance meets access to sensitive information,” which the government said in its opening argument in the trial in June, Cpt. Joe Morrow Cpt. Joe Morrow declared that there may not be a soldier in the history of the US Army that displayed such extreme disregard for the soldiers above him and the president of the United States.
He said Manning thought he had the “knowledge and intelligence to decide what deserved protection and what didn’t.” He “disrupted ongoing military and diplomatic missions.” He said he “endangered the well-being of diplomats and soldiers.”
Morrow said the government did not make a request for a sixty-year sentence lightly. But, Manning had intended over the course of deployment in Iraq to repeatedly abuse the government’s secret computer network, which stored classified information. He signed non-disclosure agreements that meant something. For that, he deserved to spend the rest of his life in confinement.
He described how officials who had testified as witnesses on the impact of Manning’s disclosures had offered observations and opinions on harm and damage. They had not been “hyperbolic.” They testified on how government agencies had “moved heaven and earth” and “expended never before seen resources to mitigate damage of disclosures.” (Note: That statement is hyperbolic and suggests officials were actually hyperbolic.)
The government provided “concrete examples” of the outcome of his disclosures, which was starkly different from the evidence presented by the defense.
Morrow stated, “The Army is not on trial. The command is not on trial. Mr. Adkins is not on trial. Behavioral health is not on trial.” None of those entities are responsible for what Pfc. Manning did, he said. Manning was a “determined insider who knowingly took advantage and exploited” a system that he was aware was vulnerable.
Each of the government witnesses that testified were highlighted. Retired Brigadier General Robert Carr led the Information Review Task Force, which examined and reviewed “every document compromised” by Manning. It was found that hundreds of individuals were at risk of retaliation. There would be great impact on “interaction with the local populace” if the military did not warn them that they were exposed to danger by the leaks, Morrow stated.
State Department witnesses described the “impact” on diplomatic missions in Iran, Lebanon and Libya, how information sharing was affected, how a persons at risk group was organized to notify individuals who were now at risk because of the release of diplomatic cables, how there was a “chilling effect” from the release of cables. (But no actual examples of individuals killed, injured or threatened because of the leaks was presented in open court, if anything like that happened. The government presented a third of its case behind closed doors in secret sessions.)
Morrow also mentioned militant Islamic ideology expert, Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein, who testified about how Al Qaeda uses propaganda and how the compromised material was of interest to Al Qaeda. He testified on how Al Qaeda might use the “Iraq War Logs” and “Afghan War Logs” that were released.
Rear Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, who served as the director of operations at CENTCOM, helped lead a crisis action team. He issued “fragos” or orders instructing commanding officers of a duty to warn those in the military incident reports disclosed. This, Morrow argued, put the commanding officers in the position of having to make hard decisions about whether to notify individuals named in the reports.
None of the testimony from government was personal, Morrow argued. The witnesses were “credible” and “knowledgeable” and were all individuals who had “served honorably” in government.
There was a “serious and substantial risk of harm caused by Pfc. Manning,” Morrow declared. There wasn’t a “greater good.” There wasn’t a “greater good at all. It was destructive.” It “damaged the reputation and ability of representatives to do their job” and “undermined confidence built up over decades.”
The government did not pass up this opportunity to remind the court that Osama bin Laden had copies of information Manning disclosed to WikiLeaks on digital media.
Morrow downplayed arguments the defense had made about the failure of the chain of command. He suggested the unit Manning had been deployed with in Iraq was working to identify soldiers with behavioral health problems, “something designed to identify Bradley Mannings.”
“There was no pressure to deploy a soldier that was non-deployable and no pressure to leave a soldier in theater,” he argued. The command had done its due diligence before deployment. “The Army was not in the business of abandoning soldiers because of mental health issues.”
Morrow also said there was “no step we can take as a nation, as a military, that’s going to stop the determined insider. Our systems will always be exploitable.” And, “Where are all the other Pfc. Mannings? They don’t exist.” That is “why you have to divorce whatever issues Pfc. Manning apparently had from the facts in this case.”
There is a “value in deterrence,” he stated. The court “must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information.” It must “punish Pfc. Manning’s actions.”
“Think about the volume,” the fact that “more than 700,000 records were released and issue a sentence that will “ensure we never see an act like this again,” Morrow urged.
If you violate the trust of superiors and put soldiers you are serving with at risk, if you act out in your “narrow self-interest,” and “betray your country, you do not deserve the mercy of a court of law,” Morrow declared.”
“The Army didn’t abandon PFC Manning PFC Manning abandoned the Army. The Army didn’t betray Pfc. Manning. Pfc Manning betrayed the Army.”
Report on the defense’s closing argument at sentencing can be found here.