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Judge’s Retention Of Bradley Manning ‘Aiding The Enemy’ Charge Spells Trouble For Journalists

July 19, 2013

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A judge’s refusal to throw out the charge that Bradley Manning may have “aided the enemy” in giving documents to WikiLeaks leaves in place a precedent that could affect more traditional news organizations.

The charge that Manning aided Al Qaeda or other enemies of the American government is the most serious one that he faces. If convicted of it, he could be sentenced to life in prison. Col. Denise Lind ordered that the charge stay in place on Thursday.

There has been no evidence presented that Manning directly communicated with Al Qaeda or any other group besides WikiLeaks, but prosecutors argued that, since Al Qaeda has access to the Internet, Manning knowingly aided them by leaking documents.

It’s an argument with some troubling implications for news organizations. After all, they receive classified or leaked material all the time, and if their sources could potentially be prosecuted for something akin to treason, it could greatly chill the flow of information.

Moreover, government prosecutors have made clear on multiple occasions during the Manning case that they see no difference between WikiLeaks and establishment outlets like the New York Times when it comes to applying the charge.

It remains to be seen whether or not Manning will be convicted of aiding the enemy. But on Thursday, the government received a crucial boost for its broad reading of the statute.  Huffington Post.

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