Closing arguments in the trial of Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, begin Thursday. If he is convicted on all charges, the 25-year-old faces life in prison for passing 700,000 classified military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
Lind’s handling of the trial has already drawn the ire of Manning’s supporters who accuse the judge, a 53-year-old career officer, of favoring the government. They have cited her recent decision to let stand the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. Lind accepted the prosecution’s argument that Manning should have known that al-Qaeda could access the material once WikiLeaks posted it.
“I think it’s just outrageous for her to support the notion that essentially any leak to the Internet of classified information is aiding the enemy,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, a classified official history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
But Lisa Schenck, associate dean for academic affairs at the George Washington University Law School, where Lind teaches, said the judge is a model of fairness.
“She’ll go through every bit of evidence and every element of proof, and she will be 100 percent sure that the government meets its burden,” Schenck said. “She is the most thorough person that you could put on that trial.”
Born Denise Rose Fitzgerald on Dec. 18, 1959, Lind grew up in Upstate New York, close to the U.S.-Canada border. She was an only child in a family with no history in the military, friends said. She surprised her parents by signing up for the ROTC while studying political science at Siena College, a small, Franciscan liberal arts college in New York state.
John Christian, a classmate at Siena, said that at the time there were few women in the ROTC, which trains commissioned officers and requires a “tough physicality.”
“It was swimming upstream, moving against the norm, so you really had to have more backbone and idea of where you wanted to go,” said Christian, who recalled Lind as a hardworking and serious student who was “clearly towards the higher end academically.”
After graduating in 1982, Lind went to Albany Law School, where she met her future husband, Scott. The pair enlisted in the Army’s legal division, the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.
Fourteen years ago, while studying for a master’s degree in law, Lind wrote her thesis on what was to prove a remarkably prescient topic: the media’s right of access to military cases.
In a published version, she indicated that she supported opening up military justice to scrutiny, arguing that existing restrictions on access to proceedings “violate the media First Amendment right of access.”