Behind Bars

No Harm in Transparency:
Wrap-up from the Bradley Manning Pretrial Hearing

By Bradley Manning Support Network

On Friday December 16, the world turned its eyes to a small courtroom in Fort Meade, MD, where Bradley Manning made his first public appearance after 18 months in pretrial confinement. The pretrial hearing—known as the Article 32 hearing—is normally a quick hearing shortly after one is arrested to determine whether and what kind of court martial is appropriate. Manning’s hearing was unusual, happening 18 months after his arrest and lasting seven days.

The Bradley Manning Support Network organized two public rallies at Fort Meade to coincide with the hearing and there were solidarity rallies across the globe. We also sent representatives into the courtroom to provide minute by-minute coverage of what happened in the hearing. We believe that justice will not come for Bradley Manning unless the government is held accountable to the court of public opinion, which is why we fought hard to get the public a place in the court.

Major takeaways

The defense called on the investigating officer to recuse himself due to the possibility of bias (the standard that must be met is not whether the investigating officer is biased but rather whether a reasonable person, knowing all the facts, would conclude that he was likely to be biased). To recap: the investigating officer works for the Department of Justice (which is investigating WikiLeaks through a secret grand jury) and demonstrated bias by refusing the majority of the defense’s witnesses while granting all of the prosecution’s witnesses. The investigating officer also initially refused a request to close a small portion of the hearing that the defense felt could endanger Manning’s likelihood of receiving a fair trial. Additionally, the investigating officer decided to allow unsworn statements against the objections of the defense from two key witnesses who reviewed whether information was appropriately classified, demonstrating more bias to the prosecution and perhaps running contrary to military law.

The prosecution is building its case mostly on a wealth of forensic evidence. Multiple computers were seized and examined—from Manning’s personal computer to all of the computers he used at work to two devices belonging to Adrian Lamo. Forensic examiners testified at length about finding various pieces of evidence similar to what was later published by WikiLeaks on the computers.

The defense is using several different tactics to fight different charges. Some of the major tactics include:

  1. Showing that dysfunctional military leadership failed Manning, providing inadequate training and supervision and failing to address his clear psychological distress.
  2. Showing that there were habits of breaking computer access regulations that were not only tolerated but necessary to complete one’s job and openly encouraged by supervisors.
  3. Demonstrating that there was no harm resultant from the alleged disclosures, and that in fact much of what was published on WikiLeaks was either not classified or should not have been classified.

Additionally, testimony provided showcased that Manning was treated terribly in the military. From his roommate refusing to speak to him anymore after learning he was gay; to being generally abhorred by others in the unit; Manning lived a friendless and difficult life. Homophobia in the military created a cruel and lonely environment for him. There’s plenty of evidence of him trying to get help, and no response from leadership.

The defense continually sought ways to take this beyond a discussion of forensic analysis and into a discussion of over classification as an epidemic in our military.

Additionally, WikiLeaks sent two lawyers in to the proceedings. They petitioned the court for guaranteed access to the proceedings, arguing this would have deep ramifications of their related case. One of the attorneys had the highest level of secret security clearance. Check out Center for Constitutional Rights’ press release and Bradley Manning Support Network’s statement opposing the closed trial.1

Bradley Manning Support Network, December 25, 2011

Write to Bradley Manning at:

Bradley Manning #89289
830 Sabalu Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027

1Statement on Closed Hearing Decisions
By the Bradley Manning Support Network

FORT MEADE, MARYLAND—Shortly before 6:00 P.M. on the third day of Bradley Manning’s Article 32 pre-trial hearing, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, the investigating officer presiding over the hearing, permitted the government’s request to remove journalists and the public from portions of hearings set for today. An objection by PFC Manning’s lead attorney, David Coombs, was noted in the record without any further action.

The Bradley Manning Support Network is deeply troubled by the imposition of an unexplained media blackout without any avenue for redress. The investigating officer has already prevented Manning’s defense from considering internal administration assessments that found these materials didn’t pose a threat to national security. Now he is seeking to prevent journalists and the public from reporting on testimony related to materials that are already in the public domain. Notably, even members of the public who hold relevant security clearances are expected to be removed from viewing the proceedings. Amy Jacobsen of the Center for Constitutional Rights and cooperating counsel for WikiLeaks—who holds the highest level of Top Secret security clearance—is also expected to be denied entrance. We are concerned that representatives of unnamed “relevant government agencies” will be permitted to remain in the room. Lieutenant Colonel Almanza should at a minimum be transparent about which government agencies he has deemed relevant to this matter. In particular, he needs to disclose whether he will permit representatives of the Department of Justice to remain in the room during the blackout. The Department of Justice is the investigating officer’s permanent employer and is also conducting an ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks.

For more information on the appeal by the Center for Constitutional Rights to guarantee access to WikiLeaks attorneys:

—Bradley Manning Support Network, December 19, 2011