New Evidence of Assange-Manning Link
Bradley Manning should be referred to a general court-martial, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the investigating officer assigned to Manning’s pre-trial hearing, recommended today.
Almanza has been deliberating on the evidence presented in the hearing since it ended just before the Christmas holiday. Today he announced that the charges were in proper order, and “reasonable grounds exist to believe that the accused committed the offenses alleged.”
Manning is charged with “aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy; theft of public property or records; transmitting defense information; fraud and related activity in connection with computers;” and for violating Army regulations related to information security. Manning could face the death penalty if convicted, although prosecutors have already said they will not pursue it.
Almanza’s recommendation has been sent to the Special Court-Martial Convening Authority, which is typically a pro-forma move, since it is unlikely that crimes of this nature would be dealt with in a special, as opposed to general court-martial. (Special Courts-Martial generally deal with less serious charges.) The Special Court-Martial Convening Authority will then forward the matter to the General Court-Martial Convening Authority, Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington. Maj. Gen. Linnington will then decide whether or not to recommend a general court martial for Pfc. Manning.
The recommendation of the investigating officer is almost always followed, so barring a deal or some other surprise, it’s quite likely that Bradley Manning will be facing a court-martial some time this spring.
Julian Assange flatly denied that he’d ever had any contact with Bradley Manning, the young Army private accused of leaking half a million classified documents to Assange’s WikiLeaks. Asked about the implication in online conversations apparently between Manning and ex-hacker Adrian Lamo that Manning had gone around WikiLeaks’ normal protocols and established a personal relationship with Assange, Assange was adamant, even suggesting that Manning might have been inflating himself to others by claiming a relationship that did not exist.
“We don’t have sources that we know about. And I had never heard the name Bradley Manning before. I never heard the name Bradass87 before.”
But Army digital forensics contractor Mark Johnson, testifying in Manning’s pretrial hearing today, says that he found communications between Manning and a chat user named “Julian Assange” on Manning’s personal computer and a phone number for Assange in Iceland (for more on how Johnson found the evidence, read Kim Zetter’s piece at Wired).
That evidence would put Assange and WikiLeaks in a precarious legal position. As New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt explains in the clip below, if WikiLeaks actively helped anyone violate secrecy laws, Assange and his colleagues could be held criminally liable on conspiracy to commit espionage.