This week Pfc. Bradley Manning's request to have the charge of "aiding the enemy" dropped was refused by a military judge. The charge carries the death penalty, although Manning's prosecutors aren't pursuing it.
If Bradley Manning is charged with this crime, Edward Snowden could be charged with it too, legal experts claim. That doesn't just affect Snowden: it would seriously deter whistleblowers from reporting wrongdoing in future, and could even affect journalists, according to civil liberties advocates.
Historically the charge of aiding the enemy "was used in hard-core cases where somebody handed over information about troop movements directly to someone the collaborator believed to be "the enemy"...to a German American citizen who was part of a German sabotage team during WWII," according to Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.
But "aiding the enemy" doesn't distinguish between people who publish secret information to inform the American public - as Snowden claims he did - and people who pass information to America's enemies with the intent to cause material harm.
By applying the charge to Manning, the court "implicates all kinds of people who publish things that could hurt US interests by tarnishing our image abroad. Journalists do this routinely; so do plenty of people on social media," argues Slate's legal writer Emily Bazelon. The implications for Snowden are pretty self-evident.
Via Slate and the New Republic.