As the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier who disclosed United States government information to WikiLeaks, enters its fourth week, the world’s focus is on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and his travel to Ecuador, where he has requested asylum.
The developments around Snowden do not diminish the significance of Manning’s trial. If anything, it makes it even more critical to follow.
The Bradley Manning Support Network held an event at Busboys & Poets on Sunday night where they announced that David Coombs, Manning’s civilian defense attorney, will likely be pushing for the dismissal of some charges in the coming week. It is unknown what those specific charges will be, but this is news.
With that, here are some notable developments in the trial from last week that people should know as the proceedings resume on Tuesday, June 25.
Prosecutors Say WikiLeaks’ “Most Wanted List” Shows “Knowledge,” Defense Objects to It Being Entered as Evidence
Military prosecutors have attempted to have a copy of a 2009 “Most Wanted” list put together by WikiLeaks that the media organization compiled by asking “journalists, activists, historians, lawyers, police, or human rights investigators” from around the world to submit examples of “concealed documents or recordings” they would like to see leaked. The copy the prosecutors are trying to introduce was taken off of the “Wayback Machine” or Archive.org website and also came from using Google Cache.
Cpt. Alexander von Elten argued the list would be relevant to the “aiding the enemy” charge because Manning may have had “knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plan to compromise classified information.” But, one of Manning’s military defense attorneys, Cpt. Joshua Tooman, contended the evidence should not be allowed to be entered in the court as evidence because there is no proof that Manning ever accessed or saw the list. Manning also is not charged with conspiracy and the reason the prosecutors want to use this in their case is because they think Manning was part of some WikiLeaks conspiracy. [For more on this, go here.]
Former JTF-GTMO Commander Rear Admiral David Woods’ Testimony on “Gitmo Files” Entered into the Record
Manning has confessed to disclosing detainee assessment briefs or the “Gitmo Files.” They were compiled by the US military to provide background information on each prisoner and over 700 were released to WikiLeaks.
Woods served from August 24, 2011 to June 25, 2012, as the commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). In the position, he was an original classification authority (OCA), which meant he was someone military prosecutors could go to for testimony why the files had been classified.
According to stipulated testimony, he reviewed five charged documents and found they “contained intelligence data compiled about detainees or summaries of such data.” This data “included descriptions of detainee’s biographical information, the circumstances of his capture, what he did in his possession when he was captured, the circumstances and date of his transfer to Guantanamo, his travel, his affiliations with individuals and organizations of intelligence interest and his activities in support of those organizations.
It also included information on “sources” and “methods and approaches.” But, he also testified that he had not been aware if any of the information in the documents was “available in open source material,” meaning some of it could have been publicly available but he did not consider this when conduct his classification review.
Senior Counter-Terrorism Analyst Had Stipulated Testimony on “Gitmo Files” Entered into Record
Jeffrey Motes, a senior counter-terrorism analyst in the strategic fusion cell of the J2 section of JTF-GTMO, had stipulated testimony entered in the record. What he found when reviewing documents was similar to Woods.
What was remarkable was what he said about the background information (biographical data, picture, health information, employment, religion, family members with extremist links, etc) and details of detainees’ capture and affiliation with terrorist organizations:
“I understand that all of this data would be known to the detainee and may be known by his associates listed. However, since we usually do not learn all of this information from the detainee himself, the detainee may not understand the extent of what the United States knows about his [background information, details of his capture or affiliation with terrorist organizations].”
The impetus behind such statements is that somehow by releasing the “Gitmo Files” Manning was informing terrorist prisoners and their affiliated organizations what the US knew about them and how they collect intelligence. But, much of the intelligence included was bogus as most of the people imprisoned were innocent and the intelligence intended to keep them detained was often false.
Global Address List Manning is Accused of Stealing Discussed in Court
Manning is charged with stealing an unclassified global address list—email addresses.
It was found on a personal computer he used in the supply room of Forward Operating Base Hammer after he was transferred out of the intelligence facility where he worked. It was never released to WikiLeaks and he would have had access to the list.
The list contained tens of thousands of email addresses. The prosecutors argue it was a thing of value over $1000, but, so far, how they arrived at that figure has not been deliberated in open court.
Former State Department employee Peter Van Buren, who worked at FOB Hammer and may have passed Manning in the hallway at some point, reacted, “Why is the government making an issue of it?” and if they were unclassified global addresses, “hardly anyone used that email in my experience.”
“You can send unclassified email on a classified system, so why use two?” Officers would just send unclassified emails from their classified email addresses. “They can’t put a dollar figure on a list of email addresses.”
Center for Constitutional Rights’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction Denied in Federal Court
A federal district court in Baltimore dismissed a lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) because the US Army had started to provide access to documents in Manning’s court martial.
“The fact that the government released a huge number of documents after suit was filed, and has committed to the release of documents from the court-martial going forward, and on an expedited basis, seriously diminishes the likelihood of irreparable harm to plaintiffs,” Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander wrote in her decision.
I, along with other noteworthy journalists and organizations, were plaintiffs in the lawsuit. And CCR first began to challenge the government for refusing to provide contemporaneous access to court records in March 2012. A lawsuit had been filed in the military courts before it was finally denied in a military appeals court and CCR decided to challenge the US Army in federal court.
CCR Senior Managing Attorney Shayana Kadidal, who argued the motion, stated, “The last fourteen months of stonewalling have done incalculable damage to the reputation of the military justice system. Three military courts chose to ignore or avoid our claims over the course of a year before the government suddenly conceded most of what we asked for after we filed in federal court.”