aiding the enemy charge

Chelsea Manning and the Power of Transparency

US Army officer Chelsea Manning was released from military prison on May 17 after spending nearly seven years behind bars for sharing with Wikileaks thousands of classified military and government files that exposed human rights violations and corruption committed by the US government and numerous others.

The US government pursued 22 charges against Manning, including “aiding the enemy”. Although prosecutors were never able to prove that Manning’s actions had caused the United States material harm, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison in a case rife with political controversy and seen by civil and human rights advocates as an attempt to set a severe precedent for sentencing in cases involving the leaking of classified digital documents.

Her sentence was commuted by Barack Obama in the final days of his presidency. The commutation does not absolve her of conviction, but it means that she is now free to “breathe the warm spring air,” as she put it a few days before she walked free.

Manning’s civilian lawyer David Coombs published a sobering statement on the day of her release in which he described her sentence as a “grievous wrong” committed by the military court system. He wrote:

…the particular constellation of players involved in this case, the desire to make an example out of Manning, and the “win at all costs” mentality of the prosecution created a powder keg where the ability to achieve a just result was impossible.

So I don’t see Manning’s commutation as a victory.  I see it as an unfortunate failure of military justice to do its job.

The documents that Manning helped make public had an immeasurable impact on public knowledge about and response to the activities of the US and other governments. It included some of the most damning evidence of human rights violations committed by the United States in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Beyond the US, the documents demonstrated deep corruption and systemic human rights abuses by the Tunisian government under the regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali regime. Their release was a critical precursor to the Tunisian revolution, which brought about the Ben Ali’s ouster in January of 2011 and helped inspire a series of uprisings across the region now often referred to as the “Arab Spring.”

In a reflective blog post that he published in 2013, Tunisian activist Sami Ben Gharbia, who played a pivotal role in circulating the documents among Tunisian civil society, described the impact of her actions:

If the U.S. will take 35 years from Chelsea Manning’s life, may it console her that she has given us, Arabs, the secret gift that helped expose and topple 50 years of dictatorships.


After she was sentenced to 35 years in prison Chelsea Manning said in her statement that “Sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.” I don’t know if she knows that she helped us, in this part of the world, to move toward that noble goal. Closing a cell door on a prisoner with a free mind has opened a thousand and one doors for a free society.

Manning will face a new set of challenges now that she is released, as she has become a high-profile person for whom harassment and threats of violence are expected to increase. Supporters of Manning have raised over US$140,000 in a Welcome Home fund, and put together a digital album featuring the artists Michael Stipe, Tom Morello and Talib Kweli to support her.

Eliwood/Camilla C-S support

Written by  datguy7788


Eliwood: Lady Camilla, may I have a moment of your time?

Camilia: Of course, what can I help you with?

Eliwood: I would like to thank you for earlier. If not for your intervention my wounds have been much more severe. If there is anything I can do to help you, you need only ask.

Camilia: *chuckles* My my, what a gentleman. Think nothing of it, I would have done the same for any of my comrades in arms.

Eliwood: True, but I must admit I’m impressed by the way you wield your weapon. It’s like watching a raging storm descend upon the enemy.

Camilia: I guess that is true. When I fight I often think about my family and what I must do to keep them safe.

Eliwood: Ahh, I see. I feel the same way when I fight. Everything I do is for my people and my dear son.

Camilla: If I’m honest, I came to your aid when I saw you charge into the enemy to draw them away from the others. It was quite brave of you.

Eliwood: Please you give me too much praise. I simply do what I feel is right. I wouldn’t want to disappoint my son’s expectations of me.

Camilla: Oh yes, Roy. You must be so proud of him.

Eliwood: I couldn’t be any prouder. However this whole situation is quite confusing. Becauses of complications during childbirth, Roy never knew his mother. It is a topic I do not wish to discuss with him but regardless I wish to spend time with him. He is my son no matter what time or realm he may hail from.

Camilla: You’ll receive no criticism from me. I love all my siblings dearly and would do anything for them. Even if I had to take an entire army by myself just to keep them safe.

Eliwood: *chuckles* I believe you could, Lady Camilla. If you have time Lady Camilla I would love to hear more about your family. I’m often find myself curious about the lives of others outside of my own realm.

Camilla: Well then I would love to tell you over a cup of tea . Shall we?

Eliwood: Of course.

[Several hours later]

Eliwood: Truly, he did not?

Camilla: Yes, he did. Leo was always such a serious child. His face was so red as well! It took everything to not pinch his checks then and there.

Eliwood: Your family is lucky to have such a caring sister, Lady Camilla.

Camilla: Of course…

Eliwood: Is something wrong, Lady Camilla?

Camilla: Nothing you need to concern yourself with. If you have time later, I would love to tell you some more stories. You’re such a good listener.

Eliwood: Of course, Lady Camilla. I’ll be ready to talk once more whenever you’re ready.

Camilla: It’s a date then!

Eliwood: *bluhes* Of course….

[Eliwood and Camilla have reached support rank C.]


Camilla: Of course, I told him I loved him but he wouldn’t stop crying. It broke my heart to see him like that. He got over it after some time but it still brings a tear to my eye whenever I think about that day.

Eliwood: …

Camilla: Oh, is something wrong? You’ve barely touched your tea.

Eliwood: Excuse my rudeness, Lady Camilla but do you think that…. you possibly spend too much time with your family?

Camilla: What? Why would you say that?

Eliwood: I’ve listened to all your stories but never have you told story about yourself. Each story seems to about your family’s problems or mistakes. But what about you, Lady Camilla? Surely you have stories about your own personal life?

Camilla: … My family is my life.

Eliwood: Of course… Please forgive me for overstepping my boundaries. But if it’s not too rude, may I ask a question of you, Lady Camilla?

Camilla: I don’t see why not?

Eliwood: Maybe you should be spending less time with your family.

Camilla: What?! How could you say such a thing?!

Eliwood: Hear me out, Lady Camilla. The reason I say this is for the betterment of your family.

Camilia: Go on.

Eliwood: Of course we should spend time with our loved ones, but too much time could smother them. How is your family going to grow if you hold there hand at every opportunity? I’m not suggesting to abandon them outright, but cutting back on time spent with your family will help them grow. Perhaps you will make your own stories to tell.

Camilla: ….

Eliwood: Forgive me for speaking out of turn, Lady Camilla. If you wish I will not speak of the subject again.

Camilla: You… are not wrong.

Eliwood: What was that, Lady Camilla?

Camilla: People often tell me I spend too much time with my family. That if I don’t let go, they will never grow up. But no matter how I think about it, my heart breaks thinking about them in trouble.

Eliwood: You truly are a kind woman, Lady Camilla. But every bird must leave the nest at some point. If they don’t, how else will they learn to fly?

Camilla: You… have given me much to think about.

Eliwood: Of course. I am more than happy to help.

Camilla: In that case… would you mind hearing a few more stories? Stories about my childhood.

Eliwood: I am also more than happy to listen.

Camilla: Thank you. It all starts with my mother…

[Eliwood and Camilla have reached support rank B.]


Eliwood: Lady Camilla! Are you alright?

Camilla: Yes, yes, I’m alright.

Eliwood: I was watching you during the last battle. The enemy had you surrounded. I’m surprised you were able to get away.

 Camilla: It was hard but I had some help.

 Eliwood: I am happy to see you unhurt then..

 Camilla: *giggles* I must admit, Eliwood. Your concern for me is cute.

 Eliwood: *chuckles* I apologize. After our talk, I began to understand you more and more. At first, I couldn’t believe a mother would treat a child in such a way. To use them like a tool. But I remembered one of my own comrades faced a similar experience at the hands of their mother. I always felt like a father figure to her so when I saw you surrounded…. Something inside of me forced me to check on you to make sure everything was okay.

Camilla: Thank you, Eliwood. Your concern is much appreciated. To be honest, your son helped with my escape. If not for his intervention, I would have suffered far worse injuries.

Eliwood: *chuckles* That sounds like my son. Putting himself on the front line to save the life of another.

Camilla: Like father like son, I see.

Eliwood: Please, you give me far too much credit, Lady Camilla. I am much more impressed with your strength. Which is why… I wish to ask a favor of you.

Camilla: A favor? What would you ask?

Eliwood: As you know, Roy grew up without a mother. He never had a caring shoulder to cry on or look to when things were at there worst. I don’t wish to see Roy spend the rest of his life without such a figure. Which is why I am asking if you could be that person for Roy.

Camilla: … You’re asking me to be his godmother?

Eliwood: Yes. He may be strong but he still needs the love and support of others. He may have comrades he can rely on, but he needs someone looking out for him like you look out for your siblings. I know it’s a lot to ask of you, Lady Camilla, but if you can find room in your heart for my son, I would be most grateful.

Camilla: I would be more than happy to add to my family! Roy seems like a wonderful young man. I’ve been making an effort to let my siblings grow on their own, but if he ever needs a shoulder to cry on, I shall be there for him.

Eliwood: Thank you, Lady Camilla! I can’t begin to thank you enough.

Camilla: I do have a request of you too however.

Eliwood: Ask anything of me and it shall be done.

Camilla: Promise me you’ll stay alive. Roy needs his father and I would hate to see you pass too soon.

Eliwood: I… thank you for your concern, Lady Camilla. I will do my best to stay alive for my son and your sake as well. I also promise to be there for you family as well.

Camilla: Thank you, Eliwood. Maybe one day when this war is over, we can take both of our families and spend an afternoon together drinking tea.

Eliwood: I would love nothing more, Lady Camilla. From this point onward, I will watch your back and you shall watch mine.

Camilla: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

[Eliwood and Camilla have reached support rank A.]


Eliwood: Lady Camilla… may I have a moment of your time?

Camilla: Of course. But you look quite red, Eliwood. Is everything alright?

Eliwood: To be honest, no. Lately I feel like there is a heavy weight on my heart every time I look at you.

Camilla: … Are you saying what I think you’re saying?

Eliwood: I’m sorry, Lady Camilla, but I have fallen for you. Your courage, your patience and your love for your family are all qualities I cannot help but admire. I know we may come from different worlds but…. I consider you more than family now.  

Camilla: *chuckles* So if you’re suggesting what I think you are, that would make me Roy’s mother. Not Godmother.

Eliwood: Yes, that would be the case. I may not be the strongest fighter here but I will prove my love to you every day. This I swear.

Camilla: …

Eliwood: I see… Maybe I read our relationship incorrectly? I must apologize. I will not speak of this subject again.

Camilla: You silly man.

Eliwood: Huh?

Camilla: Of course I’ll marry you. Your quiet strength. The kindness you show to your allies. Your determination to do whatever it takes. I love everything about you.

 Eliwood: Lady Camilla! Your words are a honor indeed. I promise to love you no matter what may come in this world.

Camilla: *giggles* I must admit I never expected to be marrying a man who already has a child. It could be quite scandalous.

Eliwood: Lady Camilla! I…

Camilla: Hush now Eliwood. I’m only jesting my new husband. Now we have a wedding to plan. Of course, my family will be there. Who will be the ring bearer though?

Eliwood: I’m sure we can decide when the time’s come, Lady Camilla.

Camilla: *giggles* Eliwood, if we are going to be married, you don’t need to keep using that title.

Eliwood: Of course… Camilla. It might take some getting used to though.

Camilla: Poor man, your face is so red right now.

Eliwood: Well… I… It…

Camilla: *laughs and pinches Eliwood’s cheeks* I’m sorry, my love, I couldn’t help myself.

Eliwood: *laughs* I love you, Camilla. Never forget that. Well then, shall we inform the others?

Camilla: Nothing would make me happier. I promise to love you from this day until our last. This I swear.

 [Eliwood and Camilla have reached support rank S.]
The years since I was jailed for releasing the 'war diaries' have been a rollercoaster | Chelsea E Manning
By Chelsea E Manning

Today marks five years since I was ordered into military confinement while deployed to Iraq in 2010. I find it difficult to believe, at times, just how long I have been in prison. Throughout this time, there have been so many ups and downs – it often feels like a physical and emotional roller coaster.

It all began in the first few weeks of 2010, when I made the life-changing decision to release to the public a repository of classified (and unclassified but “sensitive” ) documents that provided a simultaneously horrific and beautiful outlook on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. After spending months preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in 2008, switching to Iraq in 2009 and actually staying in Iraq from 2009-10, I quickly and fully recognized the importance of these documents to the world at large.

I felt that the Iraq and Afghanistan “war diaries” (as they have been dubbed) were vital to the public’s understanding of the two interconnected counter-insurgency conflicts from a real-time and on-the-ground perspective. In the years before these documents were collected, the public likely never had such a complete record of the chaotic nature of modern warfare. Once you come to realize that the co-ordinates in these records represent real places, that the dates are our recent history and that the numbers represent actual human lives – with all of the love, hope, dreams, hate, fear and nightmares with which we all live – then you cannot help but be reminded just how important it is for us to understand and, hopefully, prevent such tragedies in the future.

A few months later, after spending months pouring over at least a few thousand classified US diplomatic cables, I moved to also have these documents released to the public in the “cablegate” archive. After reading so many of these documents – detailing an exhaustive list of public interest issues, from the conduct of the “global war on terrorism” to the deliberate diplomatic and economic exploitation of developing countries – I felt that they, too, belonged in the public domain.

In 2010, I was considerably less mature than I am now, and the potential consequences and outcomes of my actions seemed vague and very surreal to me. I certainly expected the worst possible outcome, but I lacked a strong sense of what “the worst” would entail. I did expect to be demonized and targeted, to have every moment of my life re-examined and analyzed for every possible personal flaw and blemish, and to have them used against me in the court of public opinion or against transgender people as a whole.

When the military ordered me into confinement, I was escorted (by two of the friendliest guys in my unit) to Kuwait, first by helicopter to Baghdad and finally by cargo plane. It was not until I arrived at the prison camp in Kuwait that I actually felt like I was a prisoner. Over the succeeding days, it only got worse as the public and the media began to seek and learn more about what happened to me. After living in a communal setting for about a week, I was transferred to what amounted to a “cage” in a large tent.

After a few weeks of living in the cage and tent – not knowing what my charges were, having very limited access to my attorney and having absolutely no idea of the media firestorm that was beginning to swirl in the world outside – I became extremely depressed. I was terrified that I was not going to be treated in the dignified way that I had expected. I also began to fear that I was forever going to be living in a hot, desert cage, living as and being treated as a male, disappearing from the world into a secret prison and never facing a public trial.

It didn’t help that a few of the Navy guards delivering meals would tell me that I was was waiting for interrogation on a brig on a US cruiser off the coast of the horn of Africa, or being sent to the prison camps of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At the very lowest point, I contemplated castrating myself, and even – in what seemed a pointless and tragicomic exercise, given the physical impossibility of having nothing stable to hang from – contemplated suicide with a tattered blanket, which I tried to choke myself with. After getting caught, I was placed on suicide watch in Kuwait.

After being transferred back to the US, I was confined at the now-closed military brig at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. This time was the most difficult for me overall, and felt like the longest. I was not allowed to have any items in my cell – no toothbrushes, soap, toilet paper, books, paper and on a few occasions even my glasses – unless I was given permission to use them under close supervision. When I was finished, I had to return these items. At night, I had to surrender my clothing and, despite recommendations by several psychiatrists that I was not deemed suicidal), wear a “suicide prevention” smock – a single-piece, padded, tear-proof garment.

Eventually, after public outcry regarding the conditions of my confinement at Quantico and the resignation of PJ Crowley, the former press secretary of the Department of State, I was transferred to medium custody and the general population at an Army prison. It was a high point in my incarcerated life: after nearly a year of constantly being watched by guards with clipboards and having my movements controlled by groups of three-to-six guards while in hand irons and chains and limited contact with other humans, I was finally able to walk around and have normal conversations with human beings again.

The government pressed forward with charges of “aiding the enemy” – a treasonable offense under the US constitution – and various charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Over nearly two years of hearings, I witnessed firsthand just how much the the government was willing to invest in my prosecution: the stacks of money spent; the gallons of fuel burned; the reams of paper printed; and the lengthy rolls of personnel, lawyers and experts.

For over 100 days, I watched the lawyers who prosecuted my case present me as a “traitor” and “enemy of state” in court and then become friendly people giving greetings and making chit-chat out of court. It became clear to me that they were basically just decent people doing their jobs. I am convinced that they did not believe the treason arguments they made against me – and was, even as they spoke them.

The verdict and sentencing at the end of my court-martial was difficult to predict. The defense team seriously worried about the aiding the enemy charge and the very wide range for a sentence, which was anything between “time served” and life without parole. After the judge announced my 35-year sentence, I had to console my attorneys who, after years of hard work and effort, looked worn out and dejected. It was a low-point for all of us.

After years of hiding and holding off because of the trial, I finally announced my intent to change my name and transition to living as woman on 22 August 2013 – the day following my sentencing – a personal high point for me, despite my other circumstances. However, the military initially declined my request to receive the medically-mandated treatment for my diagnosed gender dysphoria, which is to live as a woman and receiving a regular regiment of estrogen and androgen blockers. Just like during my time at Quantico and during my court-martial, I was subjected to a laborious and time consuming legal process. Finally, just under four months ago – but nearly a year and a half after my initial request – I began my hormone treatment. I am still fighting for the right to grow out my hair to the military’s standard for women, but being able to transition remains one of the highest points for me in my entire life.

It can be hard, sometimes, to make sense of all the things that have happened to me in the last five years (let alone my entire life). The things that seem consistent and clear to me are the support that I receive from my friends, my family and the millions of people all over the world. Through every struggle that I have been confronted with, and have been subjected to – solitary confinement, long legal battles and physically transitioning to the woman I have always been – I manage not only to survive, but to grow, learn, mature and thrive as a better, more confident person.