| Write to Bradley Manning: Tried for blowing the whistle on US war crimes!

Write Bradley ~ Bradley Manning Support Network.

Thank you for supporting Bradley Manning! You can write to Bradley at the following address:

Commander, HHC USAG
Attn: PFC Bradley Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211

Bradley is currently eligible to receive mail from anyone who wishes to write to him. Bradley does receive a good amount of mail from supporters; however, he usually only replies to family and longtime friends.

There are restrictions on what you can send. The military will reject any mail that violates postal regulations or contains obscenity, blackmail, contraband or threats. Additionally:

a) PFC Bradley Manning cannot receive any cash, checks, or money orders. His legal team is responsible for ensuring that Bradley has sufficient funds in his detainee account to purchase items such as stamps, envelopes, toothpaste, etc.

b) Photographs are only accepted if printed on copy paper. A maximum of six (6) pages are allowed. Pictures on photograph weight paper are not allowed.

c) Incoming mail will be returned to the sender if, in the opinion of the confinement facility, falls into any of the following categories: 1) Contains inflammatory material or advocates escape, violence, disorder or assault; 2) Directly or indirectly threatens the security, safety or order of the facility; 3) Contains coded or otherwise undecipherable language that prevents adequate review of the material; 4) Is received with “Postage Due”; or 5) Contains items of contraband (including anything of any material value, including postage stamps or cigarettes).

Additional notes:

JBM is short for Joint Base Myer. HH is short for Henderson Hall–the unit that provides support services for JBM. Bradley has been officially “attached” to this support unit pending court martial. The commander of the unit is responsible forwarding Bradley’s mail appropriately, either to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or to the DC area confinement facility where he is held during Fort Meade court proceedings. The actual location of Bradley’s DC area confinement remains classified, but members of Bradley’s legal team regularly visit him at this facility. They continue to report that Bradley has no complaints regarding his treatment at this location. As this facility is geographically close to Quantico, Virgina, where Bradley was subjected to torture-like conditions for ten months, this remains a concern of ours.

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| Perverting Justice: The Judicial Lynching of Bradley Manning!

The Judicial Lynching of Bradley ManningChris Hedges, Truthdig.

AP/Patrick Semansky
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse at Fort Meade, Md., on Wednesday after the third day of his court-martial.

FORT MEADE, Md.—The military trial ofBradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the websiteWikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.

The draconian trial restrictions, familiar to many Muslim Americans tried in the so-called war on terror, presage a future of show trials and blind obedience. Our email and phone records, it is now confirmed, are swept up and stored in perpetuity on government computers. Those who attempt to disclose government crimes can be easily traced and prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Whistle-blowers have no privacy and no legal protection. This is why Edward Snowden—a former CIA technical assistant who worked for a defense contractor with ties to the National Security Agency and who leaked to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian the information about the National Security Council’s top-secret program to collect Americans’ cellphone metadata, e-mail and other personal data—has fled the United States. The First Amendment is dead. There is no legal mechanism left to challenge the crimes of the power elite. We are bound and shackled. And those individuals who dare to resist face the prospect, if they remain in the country, of joining Manning in prison, perhaps the last refuge for the honest and the brave.

Coombs opened the trial last week by pleading with the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, for leniency based on Manning’s youth and sincerity. Coombs is permitted by Lind to present only circumstantial evidence concerning Manning’s motives or state of mind. He can argue, for example, that Manning did not know al-Qaida might see the information he leaked. Coombs is also permitted to argue, as he did last week, that Manning was selective in his leak, intending no harm to national interests. But these are minor concessions by the court to the defense. Manning’s most impassioned pleas for freedom of information, especially regarding email exchanges with the confidential government informant Adrian Lamo, as well as his right under international law to defy military orders in exposing war crimes, are barred as evidence.

Manning is unable to appeal to the Nuremberg principles, a set of guidelines created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations after World War II to determine what constitutes a war crime. The principles make political leaders, commanders and combatants responsible for war crimes, even if domestic or internal laws allow such actions. The Nuremberg principles are designed to protect those, like Manning, who expose these crimes. Orders do not, under the Nuremberg principles, offer an excuse for committing war crimes. And the Nuremberg laws would clearly condemn the pilots in the“Collateral Murder” video and their commanders and exonerate Manning. But this is an argument we will not be allowed to hear in the Manning trial.

Manning has admitted to 10 lesser offenses surrounding his leaking of classified and unclassified military and State Department files, documents and videos, including the “Collateral Murder” video, which shows a U.S. Apache attack helicopter in 2007 killing 12 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children on an Iraqi street. His current plea exposes him to penalties that could see him locked away for two decades. But for the government that is not enough. Military prosecutors are pursuing all 22 charges against him. These charges include aiding the enemy, wanton publication, espionage, stealing U.S. government property, exceeding authorized access and failures to obey lawful general orders—charges that can bring with them 149 years plus life.

 

“He knew that the video depicted a 2007 attack,” Coombs said of the “Collateral Murder” recording. “He knew that it [the attack] resulted in the death of two journalists. And because it resulted in the death of two journalists it had received worldwide attention. He knew that the organization Reuters had requested a copy of the video in FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] because it was their two journalists that were killed, and they wanted to have that copy in order to find out what had happened and to ensure that it didn’t happen again. He knew that the United States had responded to that FOIA request almost two years later indicating what they could find and, notably, not the video.

“He knew that David Finkel, an author, had written a book called ‘The Good Soldiers,’ and when he read through David Finkel’s account and he talked about this incident that’s depicted in the video, he saw that David Finkel’s account and the actual video were verbatim, that David Finkel was quoting the Apache air crew. And so at that point he knew that David Finkel had a copy of the video. And when he decided to release this information, he believed that this information showed how [little] we valued human life in Iraq. He was troubled by that. And he believed that if the American public saw it, they too would be troubled and maybe things would change.”

 

“He was 22 years old,” Coombs said last Monday as he stood near the bench, speaking softly to the judge at the close of his opening statement. “He was young. He was a little naive in believing that the information that he selected could actually make a difference. But he was good-intentioned in that he was selecting information that he hoped would make a difference.”

“He wasn’t selecting information because it was wanted by WikiLeaks,” Coombs concluded. “He wasn’t selecting information because of some 2009 most wanted list. He was selecting information because he believed that this information needed to be public. At the time that he released the information he was concentrating on what the American public would think about that information, not whether or not the enemy would get access to it, and he had absolutely no actual knowledge of whether the enemy would gain access to it. Young, naive, but good-intentioned.”

The moral order is inverted. The criminal class is in power. We are the prey. Manning, in a just society, would be a prosecution witness against war criminals. Those who committed these crimes should be facing prison. But we do not live in a just society.

The Afghans, the Iraqis, the Yemenis, the Pakistanis and the Somalis know what American military forces do. They do not need to read WikiLeaks. They have seen the bodies, including the bodies of their children, left behind by drone strikes and other attacks from the air. They have buried the corpses of those gunned down by coalition forces. With fury, they hear our government tell lies, accounts that are discredited by the reality they endure. Our wanton violence and hypocrisy make us hated and despised, fueling the rage of jihadists and amassing legions of new enemies against the United States. Manning, by providing a window into the truth, opened up the possibility of redemption. He offered hope for a new relationship with the Muslim world, one based on compassion and honesty, on the rule of law, rather than the cold brutality of industrial warfare. But by refusing to heed the truth that Manning laid before us, by ignoring the crimes committed daily in our name, we not only continue to swell the ranks of our enemies but put the lives of our citizens in greater and greater danger. Manning did not endanger us. He sought to thwart the peril that is daily exacerbated by our political and military elite.

Manning showed us through the documents he released that Iraqis have endured hundreds of rapes and murders, along with systematic torture by the military and police of the puppet government we installed. He let us know that none of these atrocities were investigated. He provided the data that showed us that between 2004 and 2009 there were at least 109,032 “violent deaths” in Iraq, including those of 66,081 civilians, and that coalition troops were responsible for at least 195 civilian deaths in unreported events. He allowed us to see in the video “Collateral Murder” the helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad. It was because of Manning that we could listen to the callous banter between pilots as the Americans nonchalantly fired on civilian rescuers. Manning let us see a U.S. Army tank crush one of the wounded lying on the street after the helicopter attack. The actions of the U.S. military in this one video alone, as law professor Marjorie Cohn has pointed out, violate Article 85 of the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits the targeting of civilians, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which requires that wounded be treated, and Article 17 of the First Protocol, which permits civilians to rescue and care for wounded without being harmed. We know of this war crime and many others because of Manning. And the decision to punish the soldier who reported these war crimes rather than the soldiers responsible for these crimes mocks our pretense of being a nation ruled by law.

 

“I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this, it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Manning said Feb. 28 when he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges. He said he hoped the release of the information to WikiLeaks “might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counterterrorism while ignoring the situation of the people we engaged with every day.”

But it has not. Our mechanical drones still circle the skies delivering death. Our attack jets still blast civilians. Our soldiers and Marines still pump bullets into mud-walled villages. Our artillery and missiles still raze homes. Our torturers still torture. Our politicians and generals still lie. And the man who tried to stop it all is still in prison.
Trial transcripts used for this report came from the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation, which, because the government refused to make transcripts publicly available, is raising money to have its own stenographer at the trial. Transcripts from the pretrial hearing came from journalist Alexa O’Brien.

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| Persecuting Whistle-blowers = descent into totalitarianism: We Are Bradley Manning!

We Are Bradley Manning ~ Chris HedgesTRUTHDIG.

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The lonely individuals who take personal risks so that the public can know the truth—the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Ron Ridenhours, the Deep Throats and the Bradley Mannings—are from now on to be charged with “aiding the enemy.”
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I was in a military courtroom at Fort Meade in Maryland on Thursday as Pfc. Bradley Manning admitted giving classified government documents to WikiLeaks. The hundreds of thousands of leaked documents exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as government misconduct. A statement that Manning made to the court was a powerful and moving treatise on the importance of placing conscience above personal safety, the necessity of sacrificing careers and liberty for the public good, and the moral imperative of carrying out acts of defiance. Manning will surely pay with many years—perhaps his entire life—in prison. But we too will pay. The war against Bradley Manning is a war against us all.

This trial is not simply the prosecution of a 25-year-old soldier who had the temerity to report to the outside world the indiscriminate slaughter, war crimes, torture and abuse that are carried out by our government and our occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a concerted effort by the security and surveillance state to extinguish what is left of a free press, one that has the constitutional right to expose crimes by those in power. The lonely individuals who take personal risks so that the public can know the truth—the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Ron Ridenhours, the Deep Throats and the Bradley Mannings—are from now on to be charged with “aiding the enemy.” All those within the system who publicly reveal facts that challenge the official narrative will be imprisoned, as was John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who for exposing the U.S. government’s use of torture began serving a 30-month prison term the day Manning read his statement. There is a word for states that create these kinds of information vacuums: totalitarian.

The cowardice of The New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, all of which used masses of the material Manning passed on to WikiLeaks and then callously turned their backs on him, is one of journalism’s greatest shames. These publications made little effort to cover Manning’s pretrial hearings, a failure that shows how bankrupt and anemic the commercial press has become. Rescuing what honor of our trade remains has been left to a handful of independent, often marginalized reporters and a small number of other individuals and groups—including Glenn Greenwald, Alexa O’Brien, Nathan Fuller, Kevin Gosztola (who writes for Firedog Lake), the Bradley Manning Support Network, political activist Kevin Zeese and the courtroom sketch artist Clark Stoeckley, along with The Guardian, which also published the WikiLeaks documents. But if our domesticated press institutions believe that by refusing to defend or report on Manning they will escape the wrath of the security and surveillance state, they are stunningly naive. This is a war that is being played for keeps. And the goal of the state is not simply to send Manning away for life. The state is also determined to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and try him in the United States on espionage or conspiracy charges. The state hopes to cement into place systems of information that will do little more than parrot official propaganda. This is why those with the computer skills to expose the power elite’s secrets, such as Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in January, and Jeremy Hammond, who is facing up to 30 years in prison for allegedly hacking into the corporate security firm Stratfor, have been or are being ruthlessly hunted down and persecuted. It is why Vice President Joe Biden labeled Assange a “high-tech terrorist,”and it is why the Bradley Manning trial is one of the most important in American history.

The government has decided to press ahead with all 22 charges, including aiding the enemy (Article 104), stealing U.S. government property (18 USC 641), espionage (18 USC 793(e)) and computer crimes (18 USC 1030(a)(1))—the last notwithstanding the fact that Manning did not hack into government computers. The state will also prosecute him on charges of violating lawful general regulations (Article 92). The government has refused to settle for Manning’s admission of guilt on nine lesser offenses. Among these lesser offenses are unauthorized possession and willful communication of the video known as “Collateral Murder”; the Iraq War Logs; the Afghan War Diary; two CIA Red Cell Memos, including one entitled “Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-Led Mission—Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough”; Guantanamo files; documents of a so-called Article 15-6 investigation into the May 2009 Garani massacre in Afghanistan’s Farah province; and a Department of Defense counterintelligence report, “WikiLeaks.org—An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups?” as well as one violation of a lawful general order by wrongfully storing information.

Manning’s leaks, the government insists, are tantamount to support for al-Qaida and international terrorism. The government will attempt to prove this point by bringing into court an anonymous witness who most likely took part in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. This witness will reportedly tell the court that copies of the leaked documents were found on bin Laden’s computer and assisted al-Qaida. This is an utterly spurious form of prosecution—as if any of us have control over the information we provide to the public and how it is used. Manning, for substantial amounts of money, could have sold the documents to governments or groups that are defined as the enemy. Instead he approached The Washington Post and The New York Times. When these newspapers rejected him, he sent the material anonymously to WikiLeaks.

The short, slightly built Manning told the military court Thursday about the emotional conflict he experienced when he matched what he knew about the war with the official version of the war. He said he became deeply disturbed whilewatching a video taken from an Apache helicopter as it and another such craft joined in an attack on civilians in Baghdad in 2007. The banter among the crew members, who treated the murder and wounding of the terrified human beings, including children, in the street below as sport, revolted him. Among the dead was Reuters photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver, Saeed Chmagh. Reuters had repeatedly asked to see the video, and the Army had repeatedly refused to release it. [Click here to see the “Collateral Murder” video.]

“Using Google I searched for the event by its date and general location,” Manning said in reading from a 35-page document that took nearly an hour to deliver. “I found several new accounts involving two Reuters employees who were killed during the aerial weapon team engagement. Another story explained that Reuters had requested a copy of the video under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. Reuters wanted to view the video in order to be able to understand what had happened and to improve their safety practices in combat zones. A spokesperson for Reuters was quoted saying that the video might help avoid the reoccurrence of the tragedy and believed there was compelling need for the immediate release of the video.” [Alexa O’Brien, another journalist who attended Thursday’s proceedings, has provided a full transcript of Manning’s statement: Click here.]

“Despite the submission of the FOIA request, the news account explained that CENTCOM [Central Command] replied to Reuters stating that they could not give a time frame for considering a FOIA request and that the video might no longer exist,” Manning said. “Another story I found written a year later said that even though Reuters was still pursuing their request [the news organization] still did not receive a formal response or written determination in accordance with FOIA. The fact neither CENTCOM or Multi National Forces Iraq, or MNF-I, would not voluntarily release the video troubled me further. It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck [van] were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely ‘good Samaritans.’ The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they [the helicopter crew members] appeared to have.

“They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote ‘dead bastards’ unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers,” Manning said, speaking into a court microphone while seated at the defense table. “At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.

“While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew’s lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew—as soon as the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request authorization to fire on the bongo truck and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times. Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van, and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote ‘Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle’ unquote.

“The aerial weapons team crew members sound like they lack sympathy for the children or the parents. Later in a particularly disturbing manner, the aerial weapons team verbalizes enjoyment at the sight of one of the ground vehicles driving over a body—or one of the bodies. As I continued my research, I found an article discussing the book ‘The Good Soldiers,’ written by Washington Post writer David Finkel. In Mr. Finkel’s book, he writes about the aerial weapons team attack. As I read an online excerpt in Google Books, I followed Mr. Finkel’s account of the event belonging to the video. I quickly realize that Mr. Finkel was quoting, I feel in verbatim, the audio communications of the aerial weapons team crew. It is clear to me that Mr. Finkel obtained access and a copy of the video during his tenure as an embedded journalist. I was aghast at Mr. Finkel’s portrayal of the incident. Reading his account, one would believe the engagement was somehow justified as ‘payback’ for an earlier attack that led to the death of a soldier. Mr. Finkel ends his account of the engagement by discussing how a soldier finds an individual still alive from the attack. He writes that the soldier finds him and sees him gesture with his two forefingers together, a common method in the Middle East to communicate that they are friendly. However, instead of assisting him, the soldier makes an obscene gesture extending his middle finger. The individual apparently dies shortly thereafter. Reading this, I can only think of how this person was simply trying to help others, and then he quickly finds he needs help as well. To make matters worse, in the last moments of his life he continues to express his friendly gesture—his friendly intent—only to find himself receiving this well known gesture of unfriendliness. For me it’s all a big mess, and I am left wondering what these things mean, and how it all fits together. It burdens me emotionally. …

“I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled—if not more troubled than me by what they saw.”

Manning provided to the public the most important window into the inner workings of imperial power since the release of the Pentagon Papers. The routine use of torture, the detention of Iraqis who were innocent, the inhuman conditions within our secret detention facilities, the use of State Department officials as spies in the United Nations, the collusion with corporations to keep wages low in developing countries such as Haiti, and specific war crimes such as the missile strike on a house that killed seven childrenin Afghanistan would have remained hidden without Manning.

“I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and anger on both sides,” Manning said. “I began to become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year. The SigActs [significant-acts reports of the Army] documented this in great detail and provide a context of what we were seeing on the ground.

“In attempting to conduct counterterrorism, or CT, and counterinsurgency, COIN, operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our host nation partners, and ignoring the second- and third-order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables [a reference to military information] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to re-evaluate the need or even the desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the affected environment every day.”

It is certain that with this “naked” plea Manning will serve perhaps as much as 20 years in prison. The judge, Col. Denise Lind, who will determine Manning’s sentence, warned him that the government could use his admissions to build a case for the more serious charges. Manning faces 90 years if he is convicted on the greater charge of espionage, and he faces life if convicted of aiding the enemy. Military prosecutors have made it clear they are out for blood. They said they will call 141 witnesses, including 15 who will charge that Manning caused harm to national interests; 33 witnesses, the government claims, will discuss information so sensitive or secret that it will require closed court sessions. Four witnesses—including, it appears, a Navy SEAL involved in the bin Laden raid—will give testimony anonymously. Army Maj. Ashden Fein, the lead prosecution attorney, has told the court that the government witnesses will discuss issues such as “injury and death to individuals” that resulted from the WikiLeaks disclosures, as well as how the “capability of the enemy increased in certain countries.” The government is preventing Manning’s defense team from interviewing some of the witnesses before the trial.

When he was secretary of defense, Robert Gates said a Defense Department review determined that the publication of the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary had “not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods.” In the trial, however, the government must prove only that the “disclosure could be potentially damaging to the United States” and need only provide “independent proof of at least potential harm to the national security” beyond mere security classification, writes law professor Geoffrey Stone.

The government reviews determined that the release of Department of State “diplomatic cables caused only limited damage to U.S. interests abroad despite the Obama administration’s public statements to the contrary,” according to Reuters. “We were told the impact [of WikiLeaks revelations] was embarrassing but not damaging,” a congressional official, briefed by the State Department, told Reuters. The “Obama administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers,” the official told the news outlet. Government prosecutors, strengthening their case further, have succeeded in blocking Manning’s lawyers from presenting evidence about the lack of real damage caused to U.S. interests by the leaks.

Manning has done what anyone with a conscience should have done. In the courtroom he exhibited—especially given the prolonged abuse he suffered during his thousand days inside the military prison system—poise, intelligence and dignity. He appealed to the best within us. And this is why the government fears him. America still produces heroes, some in uniform. But now we lock them up.

The court has not yet issued an official text of Bradley Manning’s statement. Thanks to Alexa O’Brien for providing a transcript.

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Manning Tragedy

| Bradley Manning to speak for first time since arrest in pre-trial testimony!

Bradley Manning to speak for first time since arrest in pre-trial testimony ~  in New York, guardian.co.uk.

Soldier allegedly behind WikiLeaks documents leak to be called as a witness in first public statement since 2010.

Bradley Manning

Manning’s lawyer has called for a cut in any sentence the soldier may receive on the grounds of improper treatment while in custody. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/Getty

Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being behind the largest leak of state secrets in US history, is expected this week to speak publicly for the first time since his arrest in May 2010.

The alleged source of the massive WikiLeaks dump of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables and war logs is expected to be called as a witness at the latest pre-trial hearing opening in Fort Meade army base in Maryland on Tuesday afternoon. His direct address to the court will be a poignant event that will be followed closely by both his supporters, who see him as a heroic whistleblower, and his detractors, who regard him as a traitor.

Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning support network said it would be a very telling moment. “Until now we’ve only heard from Bradley through his family and lawyers, so it’s going to be a real insight into his personality to hear him speak for himself for the first time.”

The hearing, slated to last until Sunday, also marks a crucial stage in the legal proceedings in the run-up to a full court martial scheduled for 4 February.

Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, is seeking to have any eventual sentence imposed on the soldier radically reduced or even entirely negated on the grounds that he was subjected to pre-trial punishment while he was confined at Quantico marine base in Virginia.

Manning’s harsh treatment during the nine months he was held in the brig at Quantico, from 29 July 2010 to 20 April 2011, have become something of a cause célèbre, with several influential people and organisations castigating the military authorities for subjecting him to a form of torture.

The treatment led to a wave of international indignation, from figures as diverse as the UN rapporteur on torture, Amnesty Internationalleading law scholars and PJ Crowley, then spokesman at the US state department, who resigned in protest.

Manning’s lawyers are expected to make the case to the military judge presiding of the pre-trial proceedings, Colonel Denise Lind, that commanders at the brig in Quantico ignored expert medical advice in subjecting the soldier to prolonged solitary confinement. Coombs has requested to call eight witnesses in total, though it is not clear how many of those have been cleared by Lind.

According to the Manning support network, the first witnesses are likely to be the Quantico commanders in charge of the brig during the nine months in which Manning was held there. Legal documents released by Coombs earlier this year alleged that one of the commanders told his staff that “we will do whatever we want to do” with the captive soldier. There may also be an attempt to show that the orders relating to Manning came from higher up the military hierarchy, from a three-star general, suggesting they may have had a political motivation.

Next up are likely to be at least two military psychiatrists who will be asked to testify that they recommended on numerous occasions that Manning be taken off the so-called “prevention of injury” order, or PoI, that kept him in effective solitary confinement.

Official records have shown that the psychiatrists made at least 16 official reports to military commanders that Manning was not a threat to himself or others and therefore should not have been subjected to extraordinary treatment. He was held in his cell for 23 hours a day, withheld possessions, checked every five minutes and stripped naked at night in humiliating fashion.

Manning himself is likely to be the last of the defence witnesses called, after which the army prosecutors will have the floor.

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| Bradley Manning defence gets report on WikiLeaks damage to US interests!

Bradley Manning defence gets report on WikiLeaks damage to US interests ~  at Fort Meadeguardian.co.uk.

Judge rules that Obama administration must hand over documents assessing leak of diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.

 

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning, right, is escorted into a courthouse in Fort Meade. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of being the source of the biggest leak of state secrets in American history, has won a partial victory in his battle to force the government to disclose vital information that could help his defence.

The judge presiding over his trial at Fort Meade in Maryland has ordered the US government to hand over several confidential documents relating to the massive leak to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

In particular, the Obama administration must now disclose to Manning’s lawyers some of the damage assessments it carried out into the impact of the leak on US interests around the world.

Should those assessments reveal that the US government found that the fallout from WikiLeaks was limited, that could be used by Manning’s defence to argue his innocence against some of the charges he faces, such as aiding the enemy. If the soldier is found guilty, the information might then prove invaluable in reducing any sentence.

As a result of the ruling, Manning’s defence team was handed the main findings of a state department investigation into the impact of WikiLeaks on Tuesday evening.

Though the information has not been made public, it is likely to include the assessments of embassies across the globe of the effects on their work of the publication of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables.

In addition, Manning’s defence lawyers will now also be able to see a redacted report into WikiLeaks by the defence intelligence agency. It was also revealed that the FBI carried out its own inquiry into the leak of confidential material to WikiLeaks, which the Manning’s defence lawyers will also now pursue.

News of the breakthrough over the damage assessments came in the first of three days of pre-trial hearings at Fort Meade. The proceedings are being attended by Manning, who sits in full military uniform flanked by his civilian lawyer David Coombs and two military defence lawyers.

The ruling marks an important legal victory as well as a confidence boost for Manning as he approaches a full court martial in September. The army private, who was arrested two years ago outside Baghdad, faces 22 charges with a maximum sentence of life in military custody. It also vindicates Manning’s faith in Coombs, who has conducted a robust defence against seemingly endless prevarication and sleight of hand on the part of the military prosecution.

Coombs on Wednesday made a spirited appeal to the court for an end to what he called the government’s attempt to play “hide the ball”. Coombs protested that whenever he asked the government for specific information he was told he was being too broad. He gave one example of having requested documents emerging from a review carried out by the House of Representatives oversight committee under its chairman, Darrell Issa.

“Short of telling the government that the documents are in a red file in Darrell Issa’s third drawer, beneath his Bible, you can’t get much more specific than my request,” Coombs said.