WikiLeaks: Will a 'gay solider' defense help Bradley Manning?

The Week's Editorial Staff

The alleged WikiLeaker's lawyers argue that the Army should never have given an emotionally unstable, gender-confused soldier access to state secrets

After 18 months of controversial pre-trial incarceration, alleged WikiLeaker Pfc. Bradley Manning is finally getting to defend himself. A grand jury–like military hearing will determine whether Manning will be court-martialed on 22 counts of aiding the enemy, illegally sharing tens of thousands of classified government secrets, and other alleged crimes. Over the weekend, prosecutors presented evidence, including copies of the leaked files on Manning's laptop, CDs, and memory cards. Manning's defense team argues that the leaks didn't do any real harm. Plus, his lawyers say, the Army should bear the blame, since it gave Manning access to state secrets even though officers knew Manning was emotionally unstable, due largely to gender-confusion and being gay when "don't ask, don't tell" was still the law. Could this novel "gay soldier" defense actually work?

It could help Manning get a shorter sentence: This approach won't get Manning off the hook completely, military law expert David Velloney tells The Washington Post. But documenting "all the failures of the chain of command" to address Manning's personal and gender issues could help in "the sentencing portion of the proceeding." His team's aggressive push to spread the blame could also persuade "the government to soften its position on the seriousness of the charges."
"Soldier's gender identity issues raised in WikiLeaks case"

The "'gay' defense" might help Manning, but it hurts gays: In some ways, Manning's argument that superiors should have kept him away from secrets "is a valid one," says Linda Carbonell at Lez Get Real. Still, it's a "cop-out" to suggest that Manning is "not guilty by reason of being gay." That insults all the gays and lesbians who have served their country honorably. "Bradley Manning is gay. Big freaking deal." He's in trouble for being a "loose cannon," and the trial should focus on that.
"Manning's attorney goes with 'gay' defense"

But the defense is glossing over a key part of the story: Manning's attorneys are playing up the image of a "mentally disturbed, bullied, and lonely" soldier, says Adrian Chen at Gawker. But that's a wild contrast to Manning's self-portrait, gleaned from saved online chats, of a "cunning sexual strategist" who slept and befriended his way to influence in Washington's semi-closeted military and political world. Manning was far more than "a desperate, attention-seeking soldier," and it's a shame that his lawyers are painting such an incomplete picture.
"The curious case of Bradley Manning and the White House staffer"

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