3:39 PM EST Just over 11 hours of testimony on classified evidence has been given by government witnesses in closed sessions. It has all been evidence related to alleged damage or harm caused by Manning.
The vast amount of evidence prosecutors believe they have against Manning will not be known to the public when he is ultimately sentenced. The press will have what came out in open court but won’t no what in closed sessions influences the ultimate decision, which is a prime feature of a national security leaks case.
3:37 PM EST The government calls its last witness, Maj. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who was the J5 of CENTCOM from summer 2010 to August 2012. He was involved in future planning efforts for operations. His testimony in open court was very brief and limited to background information. The court went into a closed session after it was announced that the defense would begin its sentencing case on Monday.
12:10 PM EST Court is in a closed session right now, with Rear Adm. Donegan giving testimony on alleged harm or damage caused by the war logs and US State Embassy cables that were released.
No specific evidence was presented in open court to indicate actual examples of individuals injured or harmed by the Taliban had occurred because their name was in the war logs. So far, all evidence has been predominantly how US forces took precautions to keep people safe. That is proper aggravation evidence and, to the extent that it adds up, resources expended will increase Manning’s potential sentence for each offense.
The proceedings will resume with an open session at 3 pm EST.
12:05 PM EST In some cases, according to Rear Adm. Donegan, entire villages in Afghanistan were being informed that they could be tied to cooperating with the United States because of the WikiLeaks release. The issue being, as Donegan testified, that shadow governors of the Taliban are in every area of Afghanistan and the village may have been at risk for working with the US.
12:03 PM EST “Source” was broadly defined by the Information Review Task Force (including CENTCOM) as any “name that could be tied to cooperating with the United States.” These people were not HUMINT sources or informants. They were people who could be perceived as friendly to the United States because their names were in documents released.
12:00 PM EST Orders issued by Rear Admiral Kevin M. Donegan directed commanders to inform individuals that were named in the war logs and report back on whether the individuals were notified, how they were notified and, if they were not notified, why.
11:50 AM EST Rear Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, who was the director of operations at US Central Command when information was released by WikiLeaks, took the stand as a government witness.
He issued two fragmentary orders to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that advised commanders they had duty to inform anyone named in the war logs that the “enemy likely had access to knowing that they were a source to the United States and they’re likely to be in danger.”
The government is scheduled to wrap its sentencing case in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning. They will likely call two witnesses from the Pentagon, who will testify.
Witnesses for today will testify in open and closed sessions. The government intends to qualify both as experts. That will happen in open court. Some background information will be given, and then a military prosecutor will call for the court to go into a closed session for classified testimony.
Somewhere around half of the sentencing phase has been closed to the press and public for testimony involving alleged damage or harm caused by Manning’s disclosures to WikiLeaks.
The defense has objected to evidence in testimony throughout the government’s sentencing case because, as they have argued, it is speculative or examples of anything that directly resulted from his disclosures.
Yesterday, the defense raised objections constantly during a cross-examination of a militant Islamist ideology expert, who took the stand to discuss how documents could have been useful to al Qaeda or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The judge allowed the expert, Maj. Gen. Youssef Aboul-Enein, to give speculative evidence and “could cause damage” testimony that may not be admissible so she could hear it herself and then issue a ruling on whether she would consider the evidence the following day.
This is a highly unusual procedure, which has been adopted, one that deserves more scrutiny and attention. Because Manning decided to be tried by a judge and not a panel (which is like a jury), the judge has two roles to play: one as the fact-finder and one as the interlocutor.
As interlocutor, she reviews whether evidence is admissible. Evidence admitted can then be considered when making a decision on Manning’s sentence.
Still a low number of press in the media center. The New York Times was here yesterday but did not return today. Courthouse News‘ Adam Klasfeld, AP’s David Dishneau, Bradley Manning Support Network reporter Nathan Fuller, independent journalist Alexa O’Brien and Reuters’ Tom Ramstack.
When US media organizations are not sending reporters, what they fall back on for coverage of the sentencing are newswire stories from AP or Reuters. Ramstack emphasized how Al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts benefited, even though there was no specific evidence presented in court to indicate this was the case.
The government mentioned “Al Qaeda” in the courtroom so the story by Ramstack was featured on NBC News’ website yesterday. They had not featured anything on the sentencing on their front page throughout the entire week.
The Guardian has also been republishing AP stories with headlines that do not accurately present what happened. It is not that they are being unfair to Manning, but that the headlines create a story that is not true. For example, “Expert questions WikiLeaks’ use to al Qaeda.” Aboul-Enein never did that. He was certain the documents Manning released could have been useful to al Qaeda and presented all the ways they could have benefited, despite the fact they had not. They also put up a story under the headline, “Judge rejects claim leaks had ‘chilling effect.'” The judge did not do that. She just decided some evidence related to a “chilling effect” alleged by State Department witnesses was speculative and inadmissible.