Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bradley Manning :UN torture expert banned from testifying at Bradley Manning hearings.

U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning (R) (AFP Photo / Alex Wong)
U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning (R) (AFP Photo / Alex Wong)

It’ll be another month before accused WikiLeaks contributor Bradley Manning is back before a military judge, but his supporters say a fair trial is still far away. The Army has denied the requests to have a UN official at the next round of hearings.

During Thursday’s pretrial hearing at Ft. Meade outside of Washington, D.C., the military justice presiding over the case pertaining to Private First Class Bradley Manning’s alleged leaking of sensitive documents challenged two of the defense’s requested witnesses. Along with rejecting Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, commander of the Joint Regional Correctional Facility (JRCF) at Fort Leavenworth, Army Col. Denise Lind also told Manning’s attorneys that a torture expert from the United Nations would be barred from presenting testimony.

David Coombs, the civilian attorney representing PFC Manning, had requested that Juan Mendez, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, be allowed to present during the next round of hearing. Those motions, scheduled to begin in late August, will involve discussions involving the nine months Manning spent in solitary confinement at the Quantico Marine Brig. in Virginia. Mendez has previously argued that the conditions that Manning was subjected to were considered torturous under the UN’s guidelines, but Col. Lind will not allow him to be questioned before the court.

In the midst of an investigation into the military’s treatment of Manning last year, Mendez told The Guardian that he was “deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr. Manning.” Mendez had attempted to meet with Manning in private while he was held in solitary confinement without being charged with a crime. When Mendez finished his report on behalf of the UN this year, he concluded that the military’s treatment of Manning was beyond unreasonable.

"The special rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence," Mendez wrote.
"I conclude that the 11 months under conditions of solitary confinement (regardless of the name given to his regime by the prison authorities) constitutes at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture,” Mendez told the Guardian this past March. “If the effects in regards to pain and suffering inflicted on Manning were more severe, they could constitute torture.”

During this week’s hearings, Col. Lind said that prosecutors could not present evidence of any harm posed on Manning during his imprisonment because it was irrelevant to whether or not his nine-months of confinement was illegal. The court has also dismissed motions that would focus on the harm, or lack thereof, that the leaks caused. The Pentagon argues that shifting the case to concentrate on the degree of any damage done would be confusing, but that attorneys could allude to it through witnesses once the actual trial is underway.

Manning faces life in prison if found guilty of aiding an enemy, a charge the military has introduced in response to accusations that the serviceman sent classified information, including thousands of diplomatic cables, to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks site. Earlier this week, Mr. Coombs argued that the charge implies that Manning would have aided the enemy simply by sending intelligence to a third-party. Had he been tried as a terrorist, argued Coombs, the court would be more lenient on his client.

“In a prosecution of a terrorist under Offense 26, the Government would be required to prove that the terrorist knowingly and intentionally aided the enemy,” Coombs told the court this week. “It defies all logic to think that a terrorist would fare better in an American court for aiding the enemy than a US soldier would.”

Despite the court’s call to bar the UN’s Mendez from testifying during the pretrial hearing, Mr. Coombs has insisted that he will file a 100-page motion that discusses the torturous conditions his client was held under while at Quantico — all without charge. The document, says Coombs, will “shock the conscience of the court.”

"I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness,” Manning told a military attorney last year.

Speaking to the Guardian last January, David House of the Bradley Manning Support Network said that the serviceman seemed “catatonic” when he visited to him at Quantico.
Amnesty International’s UK campaign director, Tim Hancock, has also called the military’s treatment of Manning “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” and, in November 2011, 50 members of the European Parliament urged the United States government to intervene in the imprisonment.

"We certainly do not understand why an alleged whistleblower is being threatened with the death penalty, or the possibility of life in prison. We also question whether Bradley Manning's right to due process has been upheld, as he has now spent over 17 months in pre-trial confinement,” the MPs wrote.

Mr. Coombs argues that the military court has yet to prove if — and how — the accusations Manning is charged with damaged national security.

Monday, July 16, 2012

#Wikileaks #Manning:Bradley Manning back in court over ‪Wikileaks‬ charge .

Pfc. Bradley Manning (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)
Pfc. Bradley Manning (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Accused Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning is back in court this week as a military judge in Ft. Meade, Maryland hears arguments from the defense during pretrial motion hearings.

Private First Class Bradley Manning is not expected to go to trial until later this year. In the meanwhile, though, attorney David Coombs is asking the US government to reassess some of the charges that they have filed against his client, a 24-year-old intelligence expert with the US Army that is accused of providing Julian Assange’s Wikileaks with thousands of diplomatic cables and other sensitive material.

After nearly two years behind bars in solitary confinement, Manning was only recently formally charged with 22 counts, including aiding the enemy. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Coombs and supporters of the soldier argue, however, that the case against Manning is politically motivated and unjust and that the government gives alleged terrorists more freedom than the young serviceman.

In a blog post published days before this week’s hearings were set to begin, Coombs wrote, “Congress could not have intended to give terrorists a more protective mens rea than it gave to Soldiers,” referencing the legal term for a guilty state of mind used to test the criminal liability of a defendant. Coombs notes that the military wants to convict Manning if providing a third-party with sensitive material, but that, if that is true, Manning may not have necessarily known that it would be accessed by others after the initial transaction.

“In order to find the accused guilty of giving intelligence to the enemy through indirect means, you must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had actual knowledge that he was giving intelligence to the enemy through the indirect means,” Coombs writes. “An accused has actual knowledge that he is giving intelligence to the enemy through indirect means only when he knowingly and intentionally provides intelligence to the enemy through the indirect means.”

To compare the legal plight of his own client with that of alleged terrorist, Coombs adds, “In a prosecution of a terrorist under Offense 26, the Government would be required to prove that the terrorist knowingly and intentionally aided the enemy.”

“It defies all logic to think that a terrorist would fare better in an American court for aiding the enemy than a US soldier would,” Coombs adds.

A separate investigation led by a special United Nations rapporteur has concluded that the degrading and humiliating tactics waged at Manning while held in solitary confinement is considered torture by the UN.

Coombs is also asking the court to reconsider their allegations that Manning “exceeded authorized access,” a charge he says is unmerited since it stems from accusations that Manning used his own computer in connection with the crime. The attorney also intends to argue against the court’s insistence that files published by Wikileaks harmed national security, without ever proving as such.

“Anything 'could' happen – the world 'could' end tomorrow; Kim Kardashian ‘could’ be elected president of the United States of America; I ‘could’ win the lottery. These are not the types of 'could' that l8 U.S.C. Section 793 contemplates. Therefore, the Defense should be able to probe whether the witness’s testimony that the information could cause damage to the United States is remote, speculative, far-fetched and fanciful by examining such witnesses on the fact that two years after the alleged leaks, the conclusion is still merely that the information ‘could’ cause damage – not that it ‘did’ cause damage,” Coombs writes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bradley #Manning Supporters Under Investigation - Army Admits.

The US Army has confirmed that they are investigating the Bradley Manning Support Network, an international activism group that advocates on behalf of the imprisoned accused whistleblower.

A letter from the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (USACIDC) dated May 18, 2012 has been published to the Web in which Susan Cugler, the director of the Army’s Crime Records Center, responds to a Freedom of Information Act request for information pertaining to any internal files which may involve the Bradley Manning Support Network.
“A search of the USACIDC file indexes revealed that an active investigating is in process with an underdetermined completion date,” acknowledges Cugler. The memorandum just about ends there, however, with the Army refraining from revealing any more details into the advocacy group that backs the accused whistleblower who is alleged to have distributed classified materials to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks more


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

#Manning #US Cover-Up:Manning Defence Ordered Prosecutors To Prepare A "Due Diligence Statement".

Bradley Manning
Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse at Fort Meade, Maryland, on Monday after the one-day hearing. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP
Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of being the source of the largest leak of state secrets in American history, has won his battle to force his military prosecutors to account for the steps they have taken to disclose to his lawyers evidence that could be crucial in his defence.

At a one-day hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, attended by the WikiLeaks suspect, the military judge Colonel Denise Lind sided with the defence and ordered the prosecutors to prepare a "due diligence statement". This would outline in detail all the efforts the government has taken to disclose evidence during the two years since he was arrested outside Baghdad.

Manning's leading lawyer, David Coombs, has argued in motions presented to the court that the prosecution has been actively trying to avoid meeting its legal obligations to hand over information that could help in preparation of the soldier's defence.

In Monday's hearing, Coombs crystalised his objections, accusing the prosecution lawyer army Major Ashden Fein of failing to afford Manning a fair trial. "Normally, these games are not played. You hand over discovery and let the facts speak. You don't play hide the ball, and that's what the government's been doing," Coombs said, according to a report by the Associated Press.

By ordering the prosecution to prepare a "due diligence statement", the judge is casting a light on what the prosecution has – or has not – done to disclose evidence to the defence. She gave the army until 25 July to draft the statement.

Lind also came down on the side of Manning when she ordered the military prosecutors to hand over to the court so-called "damage assessments" prepared by a range of government agencies including the CIA, FBI, state department and the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, Oncix.

These assessments were carried out shortly after the whistleblower website WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and war logs, and sought to ascertain to what degree the leaks had been damaging to US national security around the world.

The defence hopes that the assessments will support its suspicion that the government concluded that WikiLeaks only caused limited harm to US national interests – thereby rendering several of the charges against Manning including the most serious one, "aiding the enemy", redundant.

During the one-day hearing, the prosecution insisted that it had met its legal obligations to Manning. "The defense is receiving the information they're entitled to receive," Fein told the court.

Manning's supporters said after the hearing that any information forced out of the government would in the end prove beneficial to his defence. "Ultimately any ruling in favour of the truth is going to favour Bradley Manning because the facts support his case that he didn't cause harm to national security," said Zack Pesavento of the Bradley Manning support network.

"What he did was a good thing – WikiLeaks played a key role in precipitating and promoting the Arab Spring."

Manning : Secrecy Trial & Cover - Up. Supports Outraae.

Supporters of WikiLeaks informer Bradley Manning say he is being tried amid far more secrecy than any terrorist in Guantanamo. They want prosecution motions, transcripts of proceeding and other material to be released to the public.

­Led by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, a specially formed coalition supporting Manning calls unconstitutional the military trial of the man, who allegedly handed over thousands of US secret papers to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Manning is facing 22 charges related to the infamous leak. He was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq, where he was working as intelligence analyst at a US military base.

So far not one of the motions submitted by the prosecution to the court-martial has been released. Neither were prosecution replies to defense motions, orders issued by the court or transcripts of the proceedings – even those that were fully open to the media.

Manning’s defense lawyer David Coombs published several documents related to the trial in his blog. Among them are motions pleading to dismiss 10 charges his client is facing. Eight of those are said to use unconstitutionally vague working, such as "to the injury of the US”, or “to the advantage of any foreign nation" and "relating to the national defense."

Coombs also complains that Manning was not allowed to review some 7,000 documents handed to the defense team by the army. The documents are only accessible in Rhode Island and Maryland, while the suspect is being held in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Arranging a way to study the papers was not possible.

The coalition’s petition for making the trial transparent was signed by Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks as well as several news outlets and individuals. They argue that the importance of the trial is comparable to that of Lt William Calley for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the legal tussle over the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Thus, they say, the public must not be kept in the dark over Manning’s prosecution.