Report from Bradley Manning’s last hearing before June 3 trial

Today was Pfc. Bradley Manning’s final pretrial hearing, and the judge ruled that some of the government’s witnesses will be allowed to testify in closed sessions. The government dropped a major federal statute from one of its specifications but is still pursuing the remaining 21. The court martial begins June 3, 2013 – see how to attend the proceedings here. 

By Nathan Fuller. May 21, 2013. 

Bradley Manning supporter protesting at Ft. Meade.

Bradley Manning supporter protesting at Ft. Meade.

Bradley Manning returned to Ft. Meade, MD, for a one-day pretrial hearing, the last such session before his court martial will begin on June 3, 2013. Today’s hearing covered various issues surrounding classified information: namely, how it will be handled at trial, and how much of the court martial will be closed off to the press and public.

Rulings on classified information: some trial sessions will be closed

Judge Denise Lind made two rulings based on the previous closed session, on May 8, when Ambassador Don Yamamoto testified in a ‘dry run.’

In that session, she found that the defense’s proposed alternatives to closing trial during testimony that will elicit classified information – such as using code words, redactions, or substitutions – were inadequate, and therefore the court will be closed for the classified portions of 24 more government witnesses. The government is ordered to speedily provide a (likely heavily redacted) transcript of those closed sessions.

Judge Lind also ruled to narrow what the government will be allowed to present when it attempts to prove that Bradley had reason to believe certain classified information could be used to harm the United States if made public. 

The government can show more than that the documents in question were merely classified, and it can provide some context for the documents’ content and hypothetical damage it could cause. But it can’t delve too deeply into that context, because the defense will be allowed to challenge that context in court, and Judge Lind doesn’t want the court martial to “devolve into many trials regarding international politics in many regions of world.” 

Government drops one CFAA specification

Before those arguments began, almost in passing, the government revealed that it is no longer pursuing the greater charges for Specification 14 of Charge 2. Specification 14 refers to the Reykjavik-13 cable, and the greater offense is violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In February, Bradley pled guilty to a lesser-included offense of that specification, one that carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail. The greater offense carried a 10-year maximum sentence, but the government is dropping that for the Reykjavik cable alone.

In the charge sheet, that cable was separated from the remainder of the Department of State cables, which are contained in Specification 13. It was separated because the government alleged that the bulk of the State Dept. cables were released between March 28, 2010, and May 27, 2010, but that the Reykjavik-13 cable was released between February 15, 2010, and February 18, 2010. The defense challenged the latter dates, and now the government has dropped it. 

Stipulation of facts regarding OBL raid

It was also revealed that the defense and government have agreed to enter a stipulation of facts regarding the evidence found from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound as an appellate exhibit. That document stipulates that during that raid, the U.S. collected digital media which included three items: (1) a letter from Osama bin Laden to a member of Al Qaeda requesting that the member gather defense material posted to WikiLeaks, (2), a letter from the same member of Al Qaeda to Osama bin Laden, attached to which was the Afghan. War Log as posted by WikiLeaks, and (3) Dept. of State information released by WikiLeaks.

The parties stipulating to these facts could remove the need for the government’s classified ‘John Doe’ witness to testify. 


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