Manning’s defense moves to merge charges; sentencing phase in closed court: trial report, day 25
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. August 1, 2013
The second day of the sentencing phase in Bradley Manning’s court martial moved into a closed session after about an hour of open court.
The State Department’s former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near-Eastern Affairs, Elizabeth Dibble (profiled here by Alexa O’Brien), testified about WikiLeaks’ release of the State Dept’s diplomatic cables and how those cables are used. She said cables can give a snapshot of an event, meeting, or policy, and that embassies use them to delve deeper than newspaper-available facts to get background and context for how different government’s make decisions behind the scenes. She was qualified as an expert on diplomatic priorities, and can opine specifically on diplomacy in Iran, Lebanon, and Libya.
Dibble said the State Dept. reacted with “horror and disbelief that our diplomatic cables had been released and were on public websites for the world to see.”
On cross-examination, Dibble said that she never questioned the classification status of a diplomatic cable, because she always trusted the Original Classification Authority to have made the correct decision.
The court then closed for a classified session, where Dibble said she could speak in more detail about how the State Department reacted and the impact of WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cable release. She said she can also testify in closed court about how the intelligence community uses diplomatic cables.
Defense moved to merge charges that the government unreasonably multiplied
Though it’s unclear whether or when there will be oral argument on the matter, the defense moved the court to merge specifications for sentencing and findings, based on an “unreasonable multiplication of charges.”
As a refresher, the full charge sheet can be found here, and a breakdown of the judge’s verdict, finding Manning guilty of six counts of Espionage, five counts of federal theft, and one count of Computer Fraud, can be found here.
Defense lawyer David Coombs breaks the proposed mergers into three categories:
- Theft and espionage charges for the Iraq and Afghanistan SigActs and the Guantanamo Bay Detainee Assessment Briefs, a total of six specifications
- Theft and computer fraud charges for the State Department cables, two specifications
- Theft, computer fraud, and military infraction charges for the adding of unauthorized software to download the State Department and Guantanamo files and the misuse of a government computer to download the U.S. Forces in Iraq Global Address List
The basic argument is that these specifications “are not aimed at distinctly separate criminal acts for sentencing purposes” and “involve conduct that essentially arose out of the same transaction and were part of the same impulse.” Furthermore, part of the transmission charge includes the theft charge: removing the documents from the secure location is a necessary part of taking them from the U.S. government, which is a necessary part of giving them to WikiLeaks. The government separates them out in order to maximize Manning’s sentence. Under the defense’s proposed merger, Manning’s maximum potential sentence would be reduced from 136 years to 80 years in prison.
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State Dept’s John Feeley testifying in closed session — back in open court tomorrow at 9:30 AM
The #2 at the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Bureau, John Feeley, is testifying in a closed session about the impact of WikiLeaks’ diplomatic releases on Latin American countries, specifically Ecuador, Mexico, and the ALBA states.
The government wants to show that WikiLeaks’ releases damaged relations with these countries. We don’t know what specifically he’ll say in classified court, but it’s likely that he’ll discuss the State Department’s claim that on April 5, 2011, Ecuador “declared the then-U.S. Ambassador persona non grata, citing alleged confidential cables released to the public by the WikiLeaks organization.”
The defense established in open-court cross-examination that relations with the ALBA countries have long been fraught: we have no diplomatic relations with Cuba, severely strained relations with Venezuela, and decades of rocky ties with Nicaragua. The ALBA countries’ claim that the United States is a “neoliberal imperial power” in that region goes back “decades, if not centuries,” he testified.
Court will resume in open session tomorrow morning at 9:30am ET.