Behind Bars

Report from Bradley Manning’s Arraignment

By Bradley Manning Support Network

Yesterday’s arraignment [February 23, 2012] for Bradley Manning lasted a little under an hour, as expected. Replacing the Investigating Officer from the Article 32 hearing is military judge Denise Lind. After members of the prosecution and defense declared their certifications and qualifications, the judge addressed Pfc. Manning directly, asking if he understood that a military counsel is available to him at no cost, or a civilian counsel is available at no cost to the government. Yes, your honor,” Manning replied. She then asked who he wished to represent him, and he replied that he wanted to keep Mr. Coombs and the rest of the defense team with him.

Then the prosecution and defense were allowed to question the judge. The prosecution declined, but Coombs stood for the defense. He asked her what prior knowledge she had of Manning’s case. She responded, “I knew there was a case, that it involved classified information. I knew the case involved someone named Pfc. Manning.”

Coombs asked if the judge had made any impressions with her knowledge of the case, and she replied that she’d made none. She said she’d had no discussions of the case that she could recall. When asked, she said, “I have formed no opinion” about Pfc. Manning or the leaked information.

Then Coombs asked about her background, to determine her experience with national security and classified documents. The judge said she had dealt with classified information on at least two cases as a military judge, and that she was “sure” there had been others where classified information was involved. Asked if she’d received training in classified information, she said there were “short classification classes” as part of her training, but she didn’t remember if she’d attended a full week of those classes.

Coombs pressed her to remember. Between 2007 and 2009, he asked, had she taken any short courses on classified information? She replied that between ’07 and ’08 she hadn’t taken any, but that she had between ’08 and ’09. Coombs, ready for the answer, asked, “Do you recall me teaching?” The judge replied that yes, she had thought he looked familiar, and that she had taken his class. Asked if she’d had any impression of Coombs from that class, the judge replied she had not.

The arraignment proceeded, with Ashden Fein of the prosecution reading all 22 of the charges against Pfc. Manning aloud. Then the judge read Manning his rights, notifying him that if a jury found him guilty, it would need at least a two-thirds majority to agree on sentencing, and if the sentence exceeded ten years, the jury would need at least a three-fourths majority. She asked Manning if he’d like a trial by judge or by jury, and Coombs stood to announce that Manning would defer that decision.

Next the judge brought up a previous RCM-802 telephonic conference, which is a phone call between the judge, prosecution, and defense to discuss scheduling and logistics of court proceedings. The judge reviewed the contents of the call before asking Coombs and Fein to supplement her summary if necessary.

First, the judge mentioned the defense’s proposal to compel discovery and deposition. What came after that was revealing. There had been a series of email communications between the court, the prosecution and the defense team as part of the RCM-802 process. One of the items at issue involved something the judge referred to as a “bill of particulars.” The judge said that she had set a deadline of February 21, 2012 for the prosecution, acting on behalf of the government, to produce these materials. The government had asked for an additional three-week delay beyond the 21st of February. On February 15, 2012, according to the judge, she had notified the prosecution via email that the request for the delay had been denied. Today in court, Fein responded by saying “we have not received that email.” David Coombs then followed him up by noting that, in a subsequent email from the prosecution dated on February 21, 2012, they had in fact referenced the earlier decision. This fact appeared to expose Fein’s claim as being false.

The judge moved on, to announce that tentatively, the next hearing date would be March 15th or 16th, to discuss remaining unsolved issues. She asked if either counsel wished to address something else from the RCM-802, and Fein announced that the prosecution “saw spillage” in something the defense filed, implying some classified material was leaked, and sought to deal with that. Fein said that “two out of three filings” contained, in his view, an issue with spillage. Coombs stated that it was the defense’s position that there was no spillage and requested a protective order, so that the “government can’t unilaterally declare spillage.” Coombs also noted that experts that had been provided to the defense team had seen no spillage.

The defense raised another complaint with the way the prosecution was handling the case: when referring to certain documents, Coombs said, the prosecution referred to a “range of bates numbers” it had assigned to the pages, instead of to the content therein. Fein responded that with 41,000 documents already gone through, with different cable numbers there were far too many to reference easily without bates numbers. The defense disagreed, but the judge told Coombs he should raise the issue again at a later date.

Further supplementing the judge’s review of the RCM-802, Coombs reminded the court that Pfc. Manning has been detained for 635 days, and that that number will be over 800 by the time we get to the court martial if it starts at the prosecution’s preferred date in August. He reminded the judge and prosecution that he’s repeatedly entered speedy trial requests, the first of which is dated January 9, 2011. The prosecution had responded that the complexities of this case had warranted a delay, but Coombs, prepared for that reply, remarked that when necessary the prosecution has acted very quickly, and there was no need for any more delays. For example, he noted that at one point in this process, a security clearance had been provided to an individual within 48 hours.

To conclude the arraignment, the judge asked Pfc. Manning how he wished to plea. Once again, Coombs stood to announce that the defense would defer on entering a plea. Court was declared in recess, and before we had the chance to stretch our legs, a white-suited man from CodePink jumped up to ask aloud, “Judge, isn’t a soldier required to report a war crime?” The judge gave no response, and we walked back outside as stern-faced security personnel began forming a barrier between us and those on the other side of the bar.

Bradley Manning Support Network, February 24, 2012