4:05 PM EST The judge read a ruling on closing the proceedings and “John Doe,” the Defense Department “operator” that the government wants to testify on Al Qaeda evidence that was obtained during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. He will be allowed to testify from an undisclosed location and in disguise so long as the defense can see his demeanor. The defense must be able to see facial and eye movements.

4:00 PM EST This session is over and in recess. No more proceedings tomorrow or this week.

2:40 PM EST Unprecedented: The legal matter expert opened up a yellow envelope and pulled out copies of the judge’s latest ruling on the “Government Motion Re: Scienter Required for 18 USC 793(e) “Documents” or “Tangible Information.” This related to whether the government had to prove “reason to believe” or not for the Espionage Act charges. This ruling was issued today (a few details can be found further down in this post).

The expert said the ruling was “pretty procedural,” which made it easy to hand out to the press. There is no guarantee that this will happen every day, but this shows that it can be done.

Here’s the photo I took of the ruling:

2:00 PM EST There is a “classified enemy” the government alleges received information published by WikiLeaks. I asked—since apparently the government has decided the public and press do not get to know this “classified enemy” (referred to as a “Classified Entity”)—whether Manning would get to know the identity of this “enemy.”

The legal matter expert first answered, “His attorneys would have access to evidence on classified entity,” and, “He may not because he no longer has a security clearance.” Later, the expert inferred, “Manning, because he had classified security clearance, he would know this ‘classified enemy’ was designated as such and existed.”

1:15 PM EST Judge Army Col. Denise Lind read some statement she had prepared for the press pool and spectators to remind them (us) of the rules for court martial. She noted that video and audio recordings are prohibited during court martial proceedings. “I implemented these rules for a public trial.” She has allowed “contemporaneous closed circuit” feeds to go to a media operations center.

An “audio broadcast placed on Internet of PFC ‘s statement” was placed on the Internet. She added that she had not ordered persons in the media operations center to be screened for phones or recording devices. “I hope I don’t have to,” and, “I trust you will follow the court’s rules and we will not have any further violations.”

12:45 PM EST My full report on ruling by judge to not prevent evidence involving Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “receiving” information from being presented during trial is here.

11:00 AM EST Defense motion to preclude evidence that Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula allegedly received information disclosed by Bradley Manning is denied by the judge. There also is a third “Classified Entity,” which the press and public are not allowed to know, that the government alleges received the information. This means the Defense Department “operator” or member of team that went on the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound and allegedly found information released by WikiLeaks on digital media will be able to testify during the merits portion of the trial.

10:40 AM EST A government motion to have “reason to believe” stripped from Espionage Act charges is denied as it was charged under the “information clause” and not the “documents clause.” More explanation soon. Court will be back in session shortly.

9:45 AM EST We have not begun, but in the last half hour, a cell phone detector machine was put up in the back of the media operations center. It is going off constantly and has not stopped repeating, “Cell phone detected.” I presume we’ll be hearing this all throughout proceedings, which should begin about 10 am EST.

Original Post

bradley manningPfc. Bradley Manning is in military court at Fort Meade for another pretrial motion hearing. The hearing will be dealing with evidentiary issues and there may be a ruling on whether the government has to prove the enemy received information indirectly from Manning in order to prove he “aided the enemy.”

I covered this issue during the previous motion hearing. It was surreal because the defense was arguing the prosecution did not have to present evidence to prove the charge and was pushing for a lower threshold while the prosecution was arguing it did have to present this information. That switch occurred because the prosecutors want to present evidence that Osama bin Laden allegedly received digital media containing Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and State Department cables that he allegedly requested.

This is the first hearing since the audio of Manning reading his statement in court on February 28 was leaked. The public affairs staff have been making it clear to the press that this was an outrage to them when they found security had been breached.

“To say that the judge was unhappy there was a violation would be an understatement,” one public affairs officer told the press. She read the rules in their entirety, the ones each member of the press pool agree to every morning by signing their name or their initials.

The officer reminded everyone that no electronic devices of any kind are allowed inside the courtroom. She highlighted a new rule requiring that there be no cell phones in the media operations center. It was “put in place by judge based on what happened last time.” This creates a restriction on contact with editors during proceedings. (The public affairs staff have a number that editors can call if reporters need to communicate.)

“Computers are here for filing purposes,” the officer noted. Wi-Fi will no longer be up when court is in session. It will be turned on during breaks and at the close of proceedings.

Sternly, the officer stated the rule for no record “either voice or video” is not “our rule.” It is not “even a judge’s rule.”

“That is under the rules of court martial. It is not something specific to this. That applies to all court martials.”

The officer scolded the press, adding there was “no requirement for there to be an extension of the courtroom,” and “privileges can be given. Privileges can be taken.” Essentially, this was a veiled indication that the judge could order the media operations center closed and require press to be in the media operations center if there was another leak.

“Protect the sanctity of the legal proceedings,” the officer declared. The officer asked that everybody “conduct themselves professionally.”

“Everybody has said they are journalist to be credentialed for this proceeding. That means you abide by the journalist ethics rules.” And, “if you see somebody doing a violation, police the rules.” The officer intimated that another leak or breach of security would mean that everyone in the press pool paid.

*

There is a good amount of media present. The Associated Press, Alexa O’Brien, Arun Rath of PBS Frontline, Charlie Savage of The New York Times, Julie Tate of The Washington Post, Ed Pilkington of The Guardian, Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News, Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network and a reporter for The Verge are all here.

This could be a fairly low-key hearing and may even wrap up today, even though it is scheduled to run until Friday, April 13.

I’ll state for the record the following, clearly—I will not inform on or police fellow members of the press pool. There may be individuals in this pool, who will glance side to side to see what the person is doing next to them. They may be wanting to do this to protect themselves, but, as a member of the press pool and as someone who believes to know a bit about ethics in journalism, it is not appropriate to be suspicious of fellow members of the press on a standard basis.

Fort Meade may operate under a standard that all press are potential suspects who could commit security violations at any moment. I recognize they are here to protect the security or, as the PAO put it, “sanctity of the legal proceedings.” But, my job here is not security. My job here is to be a reporter and cover the proceedings so that others in this country—and the world—can be informed of developments.

I know of no journalism school that teaches students to inform or police people in a press pool. I’ll respect the rules. I expect a modicum of respect for press freedom and an understanding that security breaches can happen. The correct response is to handle it by not allowing that reporter or outlet into the proceedings again and not to promote a culture where reporters fear they will lose the ability to cover the proceedings if someone—who no member of the press can control—decides to violate the rules for what they may consider to be altruistic purposes.

Image by Truthout.org released under Creative Commons License