Live-blog: updates from Ft. Meade where Bradley Manning to explain guilty plea and WikiLeaks releases
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. February 28, 2013.
5:25 PM: Court is in recess for the day. After going through all specifications at issue in Bradley Manning’s plea of guilty to lesser-included offenses and not guilty to the remaining charged offenses, and confirming that he understands them, Judge Lind accepted the plea as provident. The government said it will still prosecute the original 22 offenses. Bradley can withdraw the guilty plea at any time before trial.
Tomorrow, the parties will go on record at 10 AM ET for a short discussion in which parties will offer briefs relating to Article 104 (aiding the enemy) and its history, and any potential updates to the case calendar. Then they’ll move to another closed session to discuss how to handle classified information at trial, which the press and public won’t be allowed to see.
3:27 PM: Brief recess. We just learned that Bradley released the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs while on mid-tour leave at a Barnes and Noble in Maryland, USA.
Judge Lind is continuing to question Bradley to ensure that he understands and still agrees with each element of his plea. He said he knew he was violating the law when he chose to remove classified documents from his T-SCIF in Iraq but did so anyway.
12:55 PM: Bradley finished reading his entire statement, a nearly two-hour defense of whistleblowing, transparency, and the refusal to be complicit in that which you cannot abide. “I believed and still believe these are some of most important documents of our time,” he said of the war logs he passed to WikiLeaks. Bradley affirmed his belief that the documents he released needed to be in the public realm (specifically the American public), that he “only wanted docs I was absolutely sure wouldn’t cause harm to the United States,” and that he’d hoped the release would result in domestic debate and a reevaluation of the United States’ war on terror.
He “became depressed with the situation we were mired in” in Iraq. In counterterrorism operations, he said, the U.S. became ‘obsessed with capturing and killing people.’
Bradley discussed his horror at the ‘Collateral Murder’ video of US Apache soldiers gunning down Reuters journalists and those who came to rescue the injured. He said the U.S. gunner who wanted to shoot the wounded in Collateral Murder video “seemed similar to a child torturing ants w/ a magnifying glass.” He was also aghast at the way that David Finkel had characterized the killings in his book, The Good Soldiers. When he learned that Reuters had attempted to acquire the video and was stonewalled by the U.S., Bradley said he’d wanted to try to get the video to Reuters so they’d be able to view the incident and the U.S. rules of engagement so their journalists could better avoid this from happening again.
He also revealed that while he was on a mid-tour leave in the U.S., he’d wanted to give documents to the Washington Post, but that the reporter or editor he talked to didn’t seem interested, especially without more information. He then called the New York Times’ public editor and left a message leaving his phone number – no one called him back. He’d wanted to try to talk to Politico about sharing documents with them, but he was stranded in Maryland when a blizzard hit. He then turned to WikiLeaks.
He said he had many conversations in anonymous, secure chat rooms with someone who called him/herself ‘Nathaniel,’ whom Bradley believed to be someone who worked for WikiLeaks, namely Julian Assange or Daniel Domscheit-Berg. He said that he would occasionally propose certain documents to ‘Nathaniel,’ but that “no one from [WikiLeaks] pressured” him to give more information.
The “decisions to send were my own,” he said, “and I take full responsibility.”
After lunch, at 2:00 PM ET, we’ll return from recess and Judge Lind will begin questioning Bradley on issues arising from his statement and his plea.
10:55 AM: 15-minute recess after Judge Lind reviewed Bradley’s plea aloud. She ensured that he understood his plea, understood that he’s waiving his right to 6th Amendment and RCM 707 protections of a speedy trial. She also ensured that Bradley gets that this is a “naked plea,” meaning it’s not the result of an agreement with the government, so prosecutors don’t have to prove what he’s pleading guilty to. Also, they can use his plea of lesser-included offenses to prove up the greater offenses. After the break, Bradley will read his 35-page statement to orient the court as to facts about his plea. Then the providence inquiry will begin and Judge Lind will ask her questions. In addition to ensuring he understands the plea and his rights, the inquiry is supposed to “explore whether there are valid defenses” available.
Bradley’s pleading guilty to having unauthorized possession of one classified Army intelligence agency memo, more than 20 classified CIDNE Iraq documents, more than 20 CIDNE Afghanistan documents, more than 5 classified documents regarding Farah, and a video (Collateral Murder). He’s also pleading guilty to willfully communicating those to an unauthorized person and that doing so was service discrediting to the Armed Forces and was prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the Armed Forces. He’s not pleading guilty to the fact that those documents related to the national defense or that he had reason to believe that the disclosure of the documents could be used to harm the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation. A foreign nation need not be a nation-state. Back at the next recess, likely our lunch break.
Today PFC Bradley Manning is scheduled to engage in a providence inquiry with Judge Denise Lind, wherein she’ll question him at length about his offer to plead guilty to several lesser-included offenses, and to plead not guilty to the majority of the government’s charges. It’s important to note that Bradley’s plea is not part of an agreement with the government; he’s proffering the plea for the judge to accept or reject, and the government may still attempt to prove up the offenses it has charged.
Here’s Alexa O’Brien’s rundown of Bradley’s anticipated plea. He is expected to plead guilty to 10 of the 22 specifications against him: 9 of those are lesser-included offenses, meaning they are altered versions of what the government is charging, striking federal statutes to modify the culpability and mens rea elements and to lower maximum possible sentences from 10 years to 2 years in prison. He’s expected to plead not guilty to the remaining 12 offenses, including the most serious charge of ‘aiding the enemy.’
The objective of today’s inquiry is for the judge to determine if Bradley is pleading ”voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently,” meaning he wasn’t coerced and that he understands the offenses and why they violate the UCMJ. However, on Tuesday of this week, we learned that Bradley had submitted a statement to the court giving background on his releasing documents to WikiLeaks. It’s yet to be determined if Judge Lind will allow Bradley to read that statement today in part or in full, but we learned that it included that Bradley hoped that the release of Iraq War Logs would ‘spark a domestic debate on the role of our military and foreign policy in general,’ so the discussion could delve into Bradley’s more personal and political beliefs, if the judge allows.
Due to the expected statements from Bradley under oath, today’s press pool is likely the most full yet — nearly two dozen reporters here. Proceedings are expected to start at 10:00 AM ET.