The first day of Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing is about to begin in the Meade Courthouse. Manning’s pre-trial hearing will be starting on his 24th birthday.

I have made it into the Media Operations Center at Ft. Meade. I am unable to post live updates while court is in session but check back here for updates throughout the morning and afternoon. I will be posting during breaks and when classified information is being reviewed (because press and the public are not allowed to follow these portions of the hearing).

3:32 PM - And that’s a wrap for the day: Court is in recess until 10:00 AM EST Saturday.

IO Almanza called the court back in session to read Manning his rights into the record again. Almanza then established: “I note classified information may be presented. All participants should remain aware of their duty to protect classified information entrusted to them.” Participants should notify ahead of time so the IO can determine whether to close a portion of the hearing.

The press is now waiting for a legal expert to come out and further explain what just happened and what the press can expect to happen tomorrow.

3:25 PM – Recess and now we’re back. Almanza enters into the record the reasons why he finds he does not need to recuse himself. He says nothing new that was not stated in the court room earlier (or covered hear in the live blog previously). Then, the prosecution mentions they will allow for a verbatim transcript to be produced.

3:00 PM A writ for extraordinary relief or access to proceedings has been filed by WikiLeaks lawyers, who demand guaranteed access for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks’ counsel to the Bradley Manning proceedings. The document filed and further details can be found here at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Just before this recess, the IO mentioned this filing. He tried not to draw attention to it and did not mention who filed the writ. Now I realize this is what he was talking about.

2:39 PM — About to return from recess. I’ll note that Ft. Meade accommodated the public by opening up a theater. At least 30 people went in to view proceedings on closed-circuit camera television (same feed being made available to press).

It is true. Security is tight. That is what The Guardian is reporting. I do not have my cell phone. It is with Lt. Dan Choi, who dropped me off at the media checkpoint. I learned I could take the battery out of my iPhone if I want to bring it with me tomorrow but they have zero tolerance for violating ground rules. There have been press removed from the area for taking pictures and texting on their phones.

I am fully respecting the Ft. Meade ground rules so I can continue to do reporting.

2:20 PM — As usual, Guardian has a top-notch live blog. So, in addition to this one, I’ll promote this rival blog, especially because I cannot provide updates on what is happening right now. I cannot take pictures/video. I cannot stand by the protesters and report. I am nowhere near where they are so I do not know about the military police in riot gear that may be nearby Bradley Manning supporters and Occupy Wall Street participants, who came to the proceedings on a bus from New York.

And, in case you are wondering, Ed Pilkington is the reporter here for The Guardian.

1:58 PMCoombs requests a verbatim transcript of the proceedings. He would like this produced because he says the Defense Appellate Division needs it to assist in the filing of the writ. The prosecution states administratively the court is not set up to do anything more than produce summarized transcripts of the proceedings. Coombs presses the judge further and the judge says he would grant the defense a verbatim transcript to help with the writ filing but he doesn’t have the authority.

1:48 PM IO Almanza refuses to recuse himself. The court is now in recess after Almanza told the court he will not be recusing himself. He doesn’t believe a reasonable person knowing all the circumstances would be led to the conclusion that he was biased.. He cites RCN 409(2a).

Coombs immediately indicated he would file a writ for a stay of the proceedings with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. The court is in recess for ten minutes now.

1:15 PM Proceedings will resume at 1:30 PM. Additional notes on the morning proceedings:

David E. Coombs, lawyer for Manning’s defense, said case rises and falls on whether information is properly classified.

He argues the Article 32 hearing is part of the military justice system and it should not be downplayed in its importance. There are very real implications for his client, he states, and the court should go out of its way to have thorough proceedings on whether or not Manning should be executed, especially given comments made by the Secretary of State and multiple Defense Department officials. (This was in reference to whether, in fact, his client had harmed national security.)

12:55 PM — Coombs further presses IO Almanza. After the government stated they did not think Almanza was biased, Coombs returned to further question Almanza. He again cited the simple fact that he is part of the DoJ was good enough reason to recuse himself. Almanza was ready and cited a case where an IO had been presiding who was a DoJ. It was an Air Force case (do not have the specifics). Almanza also defended himself by stating he worked in the child exploitation and obscenities section of the DoJ and the purview of that division did not involve national security matters relevant to the case.

Coombs declared, “Media has already published multiple accounts questioning whether or not you as a member of the DoJ should have been detailed to this case.” Coombs held up a copy of a report filed by the press during the recess.

Coombs also said there were hundreds that could have been chosen from for the IO position. In the end, a member of the DoJ was chosen. And he pointed out that further evidence of bias existed because the defense had asked for details on investigations that would undercut what the OCA’s has opined in their unsworn declaration and were able to get no relevant information disclosed.

12:45 PM Almanza says he was using his DoJ email with his BlackBerry after he was activated as IO for the Manning case.

12:39 PM — Hearing now in recess so investigative officer can deliberate over whether he appears to be biased. Almanza, the investigative officer, asserts he is not biased, but he is going to deliberate and consult with his legal adviser during this recess to decide whether a reasonable person would think he was biased against Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Also, Coombs informed Almanza just before recess that if he does not recuse himself he will be filing a writ with the Defense Appellate Division to get a stay of the proceedings.

12:00 PM — The US government does not find the investigative officer to be biased and therefore he does not need to recuse himself. The prosecution makes clear the defense has not alleged actual bias, only the appearance. This is done after Almanza, the investigative officer (IO), says he does not consider himself to be biased. This question is appears favorable to the defense so unclear why prosecution would establish this fact. Despite this apparent consensus between the defense and prosecution, Cpt. Ashden Fein said US believes based off written findings this open process that a reasonable person would believe that this process would sift out appearance of bias.

Fein concluded this by establishing he is not currently a trial attorney with the DoJ. Also, for the DoJ, his work concerns “policy & legislation.” He does not supervise prosecutors on a daily basis. He had not reviewed any material the DoJ has on Manning or WikiLeaks. He had no conversations with DoJ employees or subordinates. He followed procedure for establishing if witnesses should be approved. He made a proper determination on whether the hearing, which would other wise be public, should be closed or not during any portion of the proceeding to prevent prejudice during the trial. (Almanza asserted all of this was true to Fein.)

11:00 AM Press is headed back to the courthouse. Proceedings are about to resume.

10:38 AM Here are the names of the attorneys of the defense and prosecution —

PROSECUTION: Captain Ashden Fein, Captain Joe Morrow, Captain Angel Overgaard

DEFENSE: Mr. David Coombs, Major Matthew Kemkes, Captain Paul Bouchard

10:30 AM For security purposes, media not being told where Manning is located during the recesses and breaks.

Also, the names of the defense, the military cautioned, should be cited with caution because they and their families could be targeted by hackers.

9:45 AM Manning’s defense lawyer, David E. Coombs, has filed a motion requesting Lt. Col. Paul Almanza recuse himself from his position as the presiding investigative officer over Pfc. Bradley Manning’s Article 32 hearing.

Coombs listed off four reasons that he says independently support but collectively mandate Almanza recuse himself.

For more, here’s a full report I just posted.

8:55 AM Bradley Manning is not at the court yet but the press is informed Bradley Manning will be present for all open sessions, even during portions when classified information is discussed in the court.

8:50 AM Hearing is slated to begin at 9 am. The court feed is going right now in the Media Operations Center.

8:40 AM A captain, who asks to be referred to as the legal subject matter, is not a prosecutor in the case but says he will be answering all procedural questions the press has during the hearing. The points are made that this is different from a civilian hearing. There will be no traditional opening statement. The Article 32 officer will begin by talking about why the court is in session and will briefly review charges.

In the beginning, the hearing will likely be closed to determine whether there needs to be a closing of the hearing for classified information during the day. Anytime classified information is being reviewed it can be expected the hearing will be closed for about a half hour. Closing the session to review classified information will happen when the prosecution makes a request and the Article 32 investigative officer determines the hearing should be closed.

8:30 AM This is an investigative hearing, not a trial. There will be no outcome of guilty or not guilty. What this is about is deciding whether there are reasonable grounds to charge and proceed with a court-martial hearing.