FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Manning Trial: Day One

by NATHAN FULLER

More than eleven hundred days after he was arrested, Pfc. Bradley Manning’s court martial finally began in earnest at Ft. Meade, MD, where defense and government lawyers gave opening statements on the intentions behind Bradley’s release of hundreds of thousands of classified military documents to the website WikiLeaks.

Defense: Bradley was following his humanist beliefs

Defense lawyer David Coombs recounted a poignant turning point during Bradley’s time in Iraq. On Christmas Eve, 2009, an Army vehicle narrowly avoided injury after an explosive detonated. But in evading the explosive, the U.S. vehicle drove into a civilian car, carrying five Iraqis, including three children. His fellow soldiers celebrated into the night, cheering the U.S. soldiers’ survival, but twenty-two-year-old Bradley couldn’t forget about the injured Iraqis, who were immediately hospitalized.

“From then on,” Coombs said, “[Bradley] struggled.” Not your typical soldier, Bradley wore customized dog tags that read “humanist.” He strove to help his unit, wanting everyone to come home safely every day, but he wanted the local nationals to go home safely every day too.

Coombs reviewed how this overarching humanism inspired him to release each set of documents. He couldn’t read Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs without thinking of that first injured family in December ’09. He read them “with a burden.” He wanted to make a difference, and he believed this information should be public.

He watched the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, documenting the U.S. Apache killing of innocent Iraqis and Reuters journalists. He thought this video conveyed how the U.S. valued (or, didn’t value) human life, and since the Pentagon failed to follow through on its vow to make it public, he felt had to do so.

When he was given access the State Department cables, he was told to peruse the classified network to understand U.S. diplomacy. He knew the cables were accessed by more than a million people, that they couldn’t contain Top Secret information, and that they wouldn’t reveal sources – he also knew they showed how the U.S. deals with and values human life around the world, and we don’t always do the right thing.

Government suggests WikiLeaks guided Manning’s releases

By contrast, government prosecutor Captain Morrow painted Bradley’s releases as the systemic harvesting of information at WikiLeaks’ behest. He opened his statement with Bradley’s own words: “If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?”

This commenced an effort to characterize Bradley as almost singularly focused on gathering information that WikiLeaks wanted to release. Capt. Morrow said the releases are “what happens when arrogance meets access to classified information,” and that Bradley used his military training to “gain the notoriety he craved,” despite also saying that he worked to conceal his downloading of classified documents.

Capt. Morrow also reviewed each set of files, with two chief contentions: that Bradley indiscriminately harvested and leaked information, and that he was taking orders, directly via chat logs or indirectly by looking at their ‘Most-Wanted List,’ from WikiLeaks.

Press and public struggle for trial access

Just before those opening statements, Judge Denise Lind asked the prosecution to review the procedures in place to provide access to the press and public to Bradley’s trial, presumably in response to a motion filedby Reader Supported News. I say presumably because I watched the proceedings on a video feed in the theater next door to the courtroom (I gave my press pass for today to the Freedom of the Press foundation’s stenographers) – and the feed cut out frequently. We were in the theater because we were told that both the courtroom and the spillover trailer, whose video feed never cut out, were full. But those we talked to from the trailer said it was half-full at most.

Nevertheless, prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein assured Judge Lind that no member of the public has ever been excluded from viewing Bradley’s proceedings. He didn’t happen to mention a last-minute restriction imposed on attendees: though they’ve been allowed for more than a year of pretrial proceedings, ‘Truth’ t-shirts were banned from the courtroom today, as were “Bradley Manning shirts or any other propoganda,” according to one gun-toting soldier. Pressed about the new limitation, one soldier told the Support Network’s Emma Cape that the decision was made from someone “very high up” and that he figured it was related to increased media access.

Maj. Fein also said that every effort has been made to provide full access to journalists, despite the legion of journalists decrying Ft. Meade’s restrictions on the media.

He said that only five journalists had been denied press credentials to Bradley’s trial. This number was laughable, considering the Military District of Washington has claimed, “More than 350 requests for credentials were received for 70 seats in the media operations center and 10 seats in the courtroom.” We know for certain that the Freedom of Press’s stenographers were denied and that several others were as well.

First witnesses called, forensics underway 

Finally, after lunch, the government called its first witnesses, to prove it was Bradley Manning who actually released the documents. Special Agents Thomas Smith and Toni Graham testified about arriving at Bradley’s base to photograph his housing and work stations and to interview his fellow soldiers. Specialist Eric Baker, Bradley’s roommate at F.O.B. Hammer in Baghdad, testified briefly about Bradley’s computer habits and collection of CDs and a hard drive. The defense didn’t have extensive cross-examination questions for either: in light of Bradley’s February guilty plea to providing information to WikiLeaks, his lawyers largely didn’t contest the fact that the computers in question were Bradley’s.

Tomorrow, the government will call Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent David Shaver, who’s expected to testify at much greater length.

Nathan Fuller, a writer for the Bradley Manning Support Network, where this dispatch also appeared. He can be reached at Nathan@bradleymanning.org

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
Rob Urie
Meet the Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs
Eric Sommer
U.S.-China War: a Danger Hidden from the American People
Andrew Levine
Are Democrats Still the Lesser Evil?
Linda Pentz Gunter
What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal?
Robert Fantina
Trucks, ‘Terror’ and Israel
Richard Moser
Universal Values are Revolutionary Values
Russell Mokhiber
Build the Bagdikian Wall: “Sponsored News” at the Washington Post
Yoav Litvin
Establishment Narcissism – The Democrats’ Game of Thrones
David Rosen
Return of the Repressed: Trump & the Revival of the Culture Wars
Robert Koehler
War Consciousness and the F-35
Rev. William Alberts
The New Smell of McCarthyism Demands Faith Leaders Speak Truth to Power
John Laforge
Federal Regulator Halts Move to Toughen Radiation Exposure Limits
Norman Pollack
Farewell Address: Nazification of Hope
David Swanson
Imagine the Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Peace
CJ Hopkins
Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works
Ron Jacobs
Striking in Reagan Time
Missy Comley Beattie
The Streep
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: The Potential Impacts of Collective Inaction
Uri Avnery
Confessions of a Megalomaniac
Kenneth Worles
Black Without a Home: King’s Dream Still Deferred
Geoff Dutton
The Russian Patsy
Jill Richardson
The Coming War on Regulations
Jeremy Brecher
Resisting the Trump Agenda is Social Self-Defense
Peter Lee
Is Obama Behind the Hit on Trump?
Christopher Brauchli
Why Did Congress Do It? Because They Can
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail