Bradley Manning Trial: DHS Took Extreme, Unconstitutional Methods While Gathering Evidence

On Monday, court martial will begin for PFC Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of being the source of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history. In obtaining information for his trial, the federal government has taken extreme, and some would argue unconstitutional, measures including seizing the property of one of Manning’s most outspoken supporters, David House. House sued the government for violating his constitutional rights, and as part of a settlement, the federal government has agreed to destroy all the data obtained when they seized his laptop.

David House, the founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network (BMSN), accused authorities of violating his constitutional rights when he was stopped at Chicago O’Hare, allegedly because of his association with BMSN, an organization that raised money for Manning's legal defense. His laptop, thumb drives, and video camera were seized and not returned for weeks.

In addition to destroying the data, the ACLU said the government would disclose how the data was used, but would not, however, admit any wrongdoing. In a statement the ACLU said, "The seizure of David House’s computer is a chilling example of the government's overbroad ability to conduct a search at the border that intrudes into a person's political beliefs and associations. Those rights were vindicated by the settlement we reached." 

House said of the settlement, "The government’s surrender of this data is a victory through vital action not only for the citizens put at risk, but also for anyone who believes that Americans should be free to support political causes without fearing retaliation from Washington."

Bradley Manning's leak of over 700,000 confidential documents to WikiLeaks revealed the presence of death squads operating in Afghanistan, complicity in torture, and evidence of spying on UN diplomats in U.S. embassy cables. The leak also included video of an AH-64D Apache assault helicopter operated by the United States killing two Reuters journalists.

A new documentary by Alex Gibney, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, tells the story of Australian hacker Julian Assange, and how he obtained and used Manning's information.