Notes from the courtroom: Bradley Manning’s motions hearing at Ft. Meade, 11/7/12
The government deposed two witnesses today to try to explain why it delayed Bradley Manning’s trial beyond what the military law allows. Bradley entered a plea offering that deals with lesser-included offenses, and chooses to be tried before a military judge alone. This means there will not be a jury (of military officers and high ranking NCO’s).
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. November 7, 2012.
Hurricane Sandy delivered the first delay in Bradley Manning’s two-and-a-half-year trial that didn’t come at the unconstitutional whim of the United States government. The storm left the Ft. Meade military base largely unscathed, and Bradley’s trial proceeded today.
The defense has moved to dismiss with prejudice the 22 charges against the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower for lack of a speedy trial, and today the prosecution deposed two witnesses to attempt to justify keeping the young Army private in pretrial confinement for 900 days without bringing him to trial.
Witness 1: Lt. Col. Paul Almanza
First the government called Lt. Col. Paul Almanza to the stand telephonically. Almanza was the Investigating Officer at Bradley’s initial Article 32 pretrial hearing in December 2011. Almanza excluded the government’s delays last December and in January of this year from the speedy trial clock, and today he was asked to explain why.
Last year, the government emailed Almanza, requesting that he authorize a trial delay from December 22, 2011, to January 3, 2012, and that he exclude that delay from the trial clock. Almanza granted that request and excluded it without asking for the defense’s position on the matter.
Almanza said he excluded three days (December 24-26) for Christmas, a federal holiday, two days for New Years Day, also a federal holiday, and four days in between, though he did review evidence on a Secret-clearance laptop at the Military District of Washington on December 23. He excluded the weekend of January 7 and 8, saying he took his son to a swim meet in Pennsylvania.
Almanza sent out memos on January 4 and 11 regarding delays, but in neither did he mention that he had concurrent civilian work with the Department of Justice. Asked why he didn’t mention it, Almanza said that he should have, that omitting it was an oversight. He also said he could’ve requested leave from his civilian work, but neglected to do so. Almanza testified that had he not allowed these delays, he could’ve completed the work that he submitted on January 11 by December 29.
He also said that at last December’s hearing, he would’ve accepted witness testimony regarding the classification of documents if substituted for classification reviews. This method would have obviated the long wait for Original Classification Authorities to submit their reviews.
Witness 2: Bert Haggett
After lunch, the government called Bert Haggett to testify. Haggett promulgates information security policy throughout the Army, and has reviewed documents in Bradley’s case to determine to whom they should be referred for a classification review. Unfortunately, most of Haggett’s responses to many of the defense’s initial questions were, “I don’t recall.” That was the answer he gave to, “When were you first contacted?”, “Did you sign a referral?”, “Did the referral include a deadline?” and “How long did the Original Classification Authority take?”
Haggett suggested that it was possible, or not necessarily unreasonable, for a complex classification review process to take more than a full year. However, he said it only took him 4 days to examine 900 documents and determine to which ‘equity holder’ within the government to send them.
Upon cross-examination and Judge Lind’s questioning, and after the prosecution handed him court documents recounting past proceedings, Haggett began to reveal more about his role, the government’s inexpedience, and the review process. Though he couldn’t remember the date exactly, he agreed that it was likely he was first contacted in April 2011 – more than nine months after Bradley’s arrest. Haggett couldn’t explain why it took the government so long to contact him, but he said that during 2010, “When the WikiLeaks issue occurred, I lived and breathed it.”
Haggett didn’t know too much about the status of documents relating to Bradley Manning’s case after he recommended they be sent to various OCAs, but he spoke more generally about the classification and review process in his experience. He said it was rare that he would review information and decide to declassify it. He also said that he didn’t know if trial counsel (the prosecution) had included deadlines in their requests for classification review.
Bradley’s plea offering
The other main issue of the day was Bradley’s potential plea offering. As lawyer David Coombs has posted to his blog,
“PFC Manning has offered to plead guilty to various offenses through a process known as “pleading by exceptions and substitutions.” To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government. Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses. The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea.
PFC Manning is not submitting a plea as part of an agreement or deal with the Government. Further, the Government does not need to agree to PFC Manning’s plea; the Court simply has to determine that the plea is legally permissible. If the Court allows PFC Manning to plead guilty by exceptions and substitutions, the Government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses. Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial.”
David Coombs also explained today that, “PFC Manning has also provided notice of his forum selection. He has elected to be tried by Military Judge alone.” This means that Judge Lind alone will decide both guilt and possible punishment at court martial. There will not be a military jury, comprised of officers and senior NCO’s, involved.
Starting at 8:00 AM ET tomorrow, the government will depose Col. Carl Coffman, who will finally be forced to explain why he signed off on enough government delays to push Bradley’s arraignment back 635 days.