Bradley Manning has been charged with “aiding the enemy”.

The charges, filed Tuesday but not disclosed until Wednesday, are one count of aiding the enemy, five counts of theft of public property or records, two counts of computer fraud, eight counts of transmitting defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, and one count of wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing it would be accessible to the enemy. The aiding-the-enemy charge is a capital offense… [1]

I await with great interest the definition of “enemy” that will be used by prosecutors. As far as I know, the United States does not have any enemies. We are not at war with anyone.

We think and perhaps speak of al Qaeda as the “enemy”. We may think and speak of terrorists in general as the “enemy”. But that’s colloquial speech. In a court room, in a legal context, the word “enemy” must have a particular meaning. If you charge someone with “aiding the enemy” then for a start you’ll have to identify the enemy who received the aid.

Congress has not declared war on anyone, so identification of the “enemy” is highly problematic. Arguably, the definition is entirely subjective, in the eye of the beholder, as it were. Is bin Laden an enemy or a criminal wanted for conspiracy and murder? Will there be an effort to cast Wikileaks as an “enemy”? Is the New York Times an enemy, since the NYT has published material made available by Wikileaks? George Bush initiated a “war” (metaphor?) on “terror” (an abstraction, a word in the dictionary). Is it possible to give aid to an abstraction?

Anyway, I will be very interested to see how “enemy” is defined in the trial of Bradley Manning.

One thing to bear in mind:

The charge of aiding the enemy is a purely military charge from the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which applies only to service members. [1]

So, if aiding the enemy is a crime that can only be committed by members of the armed services, it’s entirely possible that “enemy” can be defined by the military in a way that only applies within the military. Let me clarify…

The United States, as a nation, does not have any enemies at present because our Congress has not declared war on anyone. But the military services possibly do have one or more enemies, determined in some way by the military. If the military wants to put someone belonging to the military on trial for “aiding the enemy” that can work because the military will define “enemy” — for itself, not for the nation.

If I’m correct that the military can define “enemy” in its own way, to support a charge of “aiding the enemy”, then logically, nothing prevents an enemy of the United States military from also being a good friend of the United States, a constitutional republic.


[1] “Bradley Manning Charged With 22 New Counts, Including Capital Offense” http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/03/bradley-manning-more-charge/

About pmbarry

One of these days a man's gonna walk up to you with a shoe on one foot and a boot on the other, and he's gonna tell you 'bout things you ain't never heard of.
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