UPDATE – 8:45 PM EST I will be appearing on HuffPost Live between 9-9:30 pm EST. The segment was originally scheduled for 8 pm EST and was rescheduled.
UPDATE – 6:10 PM EST Judge Denise Lind asked Col. Carl Coffman, was there at all any time in your mind that you thought, “Alright we got to go”? Coffman said, “If you’re asking if I had specific hard date on the wall, no, your honor, I did not.”
The judge also asked an interesting line of questions about the original charge sheet (July 2010) versus the new charge sheet (March 2011). She wanted to know if the prosecution had uncovered new information because more information is charged in the March 2011 charge sheet. She wondered if this came up in the process and had anything to do with the classification authorities not being able to finish their reviews. Was new information being uncovered? Coffman could not answer because he never bothered to care about these details. He trusted the trial counsel every time he was asked to grant a delay.
In fact, it came out during David Coombs’ cross-examination that the trial counsel wrote the delay memorandum and then sent it to Coffman to fine-tune by adding periods or commas. Then, he would sign it after going through the formality of taking in the defense’s objections.
UPDATE – 4:50 PM EST Neglected to mention that David Dishneau of the Associated Press is credentialed and was here today to cover the proceedings.
UPDATE – 2:30 PM EST Comfort break. Defense has been conducting rigorous and thorough cross-examination that is showing Col. Carl Coffman did not ask for any facts on progress of classification reviews or disclosures of information to defense before signing off on delays. He accepted the prosecution at their word when they generally stated authorities and agencies were “continuing to make progress.”
UPDATE – 1:05 PM EST Court resuming soon. Defense will cross-examine Col. Carl Coffman.
UPDATE – 1:02 PM EST Col. Carl Coffman, Special Court Martial Convening Authority, asserted in court today, he has been concerned for rights of Manning: “One of your soldiers is in pre-trial confinement,” he said. You’re trying to get to Article 32 hearing as soon as possible so you can see if there is requirement for further action. Echoed what Bert Haggett, classified review expert, said yesterday in court, “With the volume of information the accused had been accused of leaking,” it prolonged process. After classification reviews, then agencies had to officially disclose the information.
Despite how long this all took, Coffman found it necessary. Article 32 would not have been “fair” if not complete.
UPDATE – 1:00 PM EST Plans for Article 32 hearing in December 2011 was called “Operation Plan Bravo.”
UPDATE – 12:45 PM EST Here’s a bit of a timeline of events: August 2010 — Coffman assumed duty as Special Convening Court Martial Authority; August 3 – ordered sanity board be convened; August 12 – set six week deadline for board to complete duties; end of September – sanity board was delayed to conduct preliminary review of classified information; October 12 – excluded time between July 12 & October 12 so it wasn’t accredited to government; November 17 – excluded time between October 12 & November 17; December 17 – excluded time in between November 17 & December 17.
In 2011: January 14 – excluded time between December 17 & January 14; February 3 – ordered sanity board to restart; beginning of March – sanity board is convening; March 18 – excludable delay granted between February 15 & March 18; April 16- deadline for sanity board to complete but on April 15 board requested extension; April 22 – board concluded; April 22 – delay of Article 32 hearing requested by the government; July 13 – excludable delay between Jun 17 & July 13 granted; July 26 – granted another delay of Article 32 hearing; August 25 – another delay of Article 32 hearing granted; September 26 – another delay of Article 32 hearing; October 25 – one more delay of Article 32 hearing; October 27 – approved excludable delay of time between mid-September and mid-October; November 16 – excludable delay of time between October 27 & November 16; November – restart of Article 32 hearing is ordered by Coffman; scheduled to start on December 16.
Each delay of the Article 32 hearing was objected to by the defense.
UPDATE – 12:30 PM EST According to tweets from @WikiLeaksTruck, a guard at the visitor’s gate to Fort Meade has been telling public attending the hearing that Manning should be taken out back and shot.
@WikiLeaksTruck reports Public Affairs was notified, as it was figured out the guard was saying this to multiple people.
UPDATE – 11:28 AM EST Col. Coffman ordered sanity board on August 3, 2010. In August 2010, the Sanity Board was expected to be completed six weeks from August 12. It did not complete, according to Coffman, because the board “had to have proper classified clearances in order to conduct the board.” Preliminary classification reviews also had to be conducted because Manning’s testimony was going to include classified information in his testimony before the board.
UPDATE – 11:15 AM EST In March 2011, after multiple delays, the sanity board that would determine whether Manning was fit and understood the charges against him was trying to wrap. It did not complete its evaluation before the originally scheduled deadline because of scheduling difficulties, getting into a secure intelligence facility to look at classified information and they were issued guidance to only convene and work during “after-duty hours or the weekend.”
Coffman stated this was done because it was a “high visibility case and just didn’t feel the need for PFC Manning to be exposed to bunch of media attention on way to conduct an interview before Sanity Board.” He added not too many government facilities are crowded on the weekend and “typically” this is “the best time to be discreet.”
He had “been accused of something” and didn’t “need the media attention or any other attention for that matter.”
This is essentially the military’s argument for shielding what was happening with the Sanity Board from the press. It is dressed up as an argument for protecting privacy and rights of the accused. In reality, this likely had nothing to do with the accused and more to do with fact that the slow turning wheels of bureaucracies in government could have reporters and the public wondering why the process was taking so long if the issues with the Sanity Board were publicized.
UPDATE – 11: 10 AM EST The government finished questioning Coffman. Now, we are on extended lunch break. The judge has concerns about a government motion involving discovery evidence. She is meeting privately with them for in camera review of information. When lunch is over, the defense will cross-examine Coffman.
UPDATE – 10:00 AM EST Col. Carl Coffman, the Special Court Martial Convening Authority, took the stand. The government questioned him. We took comfort break. Questioning resuming. More soon.
The second day of the the latest motion hearing in the court martial of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, begins today. The government will continue to present their side of the argument against the defense’s motion that Manning’s speedy trial rights have been violated.
The government is calling Col. Carl Coffman, who has signed delays during the court martial process, to the stand to provide testimony today.
Yesterday, Bert Haggett, a classification review expert, testified on why reviewing classified information for the defense could take so long. Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the investigative officer who presided over Manning’s Article 32 hearing in December of last year, also testified on why he had excluded days around Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the first weeks of January, when he was putting together his report for the court martial convening authority after the Article 32 hearing on whether he found the charges should be referred to a court martial.
Much of this was overshadowed by the fact that David Coombs, defense lawyer for Manning, mentioned in court that Manning had revised his plea notice. He said Manning would accept responsibility for providing information to WikiLeaks. (FDL reported this here yesterday afternoon.)
Last night, to clarify and dispel some confusion, Coombs laid out in a full statement the following:
PFC Manning has offered to plead guilty to various offenses through a process known as “pleading by exceptions and substitutions.” To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government. Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses. The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea.
PFC Manning is not submitting a plea as part of an agreement or deal with the Government. Further, the Government does not need to agree to PFC Manning’s plea; the Court simply has to determine that the plea is legally permissible. If the Court allows PFC Manning to plead guilty by exceptions and substitutions, the Government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses. Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial.
PFC Manning has also provided notice of his forum selection. He has elected to be tried by Military Judge alone.
Court proceedings were scheduled to begin at about 8 am EST. Here’s updates from Day 1 of the speedy trial motion hearing yesterday.
Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News had a report on the Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network had a good post on what happened yesterday and Alexa O’Brien had a post on the plea and forum entered by Manning.
There were only two credentialed journalists, who managed to show up here yesterday—Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News and I. There were two or three others in the public gallery, including Nathan Fuller and Alexa O’Brien, who have regularly attended as members of the public to cover developments in Manning’s court martial. Other than that, no other press were here for a significant hearing in the court martial.
What this means is that this blog was the source for a major portion of the coverage of the news yesterday. Andy Greenberg of Forbes, Kim Zetter of Wired, Declan McCullagh of CNET, Adam Clark Estes of The Atlantic Wire and other sites or blogs referenced the post I did on Manning’s plea notice yesterday.
I do not write that because of vanity or some belief that I should be showered with praise for breaking news. What I mean to make clear is this is the biggest military justice case in US history. The judge has acknowledged that in whatever decision she hands down she will be trailblazing or setting some critical precedents legally. The classified review expert said he has never worked a case that involved such “a broad spectrum of information” and he had found it intimidating. Yet, the number of journalists showing up to cover these proceedings has usually been 3-5 journalists.
Fifteen thousand journalists went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to cover the Democratic National Convention. How many journalists are in and around DC? And, aren’t there students in colleges or universities possibly studying journalism that could be coming to these proceedings to cover and see history unfold?
The press has no access to court records in the case (something I and other journalists are suing the government over). When statements are made in court that are critical, it falls on the very few reporters there to get it out to the public. If it is heard or interpreted incorrectly or if what is reported is not understood by the public, there is no guarantee confusion will be dispelled. The defense may do a posting to their blog, but that does not mean some of the details the press and public are interested in will be fully clarified.
All of which is to say, when one reflects on how much coverage there was of Daniel Ellsberg, it is hard to not conclude that there should be much more coverage of Manning’s court martial. In the whole of the United States, there should be more than two to five journalists showing up regularly to cover the proceedings.
Here is my appearance on “Breaking the Set” yesterday.