Update 6/8/12: Reports from the vigil and motion hearing at Fort Meade.
On the first day of Bradley Manning’s June 6-8th motion hearing supporters stood outside the gates of Fort Meade to hold a vigil in solidarity. Here are a few reports. Also check out the Bradley Manning Support Network’s court room transcripts (day1).
Another big day in court for Bradley! Having bused down from Montreal I started the day a little tired but quickly found myself re-energized at the mornings vigil. We stood outside the front gate of Fort Meade on a small grassy corner: the only spot we could legally assemble as protests are not permitted on the military base itself, and within minutes I found my spirits lifted with the lively conversation of passionate activists. As the IT guy for the Bradley Manning Support Network I am engulfed in social media activism, but I always enjoy the chance to get away from the computer and hit the streets where I can get the chance to meet the incredible people and organizations who have taken up Bradley Manning’s cause (the Bradley Manning Support Network, CodePink, FDL, and Veterans for Peace among others). There was a small group of us, around twenty people, and we made the most of it, holding Free Bradley signs which – in an excessively secretive trial – were the only visible evidence that one of that one of the most important whistleblowers of our generation was on trial.
After breaking for lunch, the hearings resume and new faces in army fatigues come and go, delivering handwritten notes to the prosecution team, who have at least one retraction to make about how thorough they’ve been with due diligence and disclosure. It’s a day of some small victories—eloquent arguments from David Coombs and hints of Judge Lind’s increasing impatience with prosecutor Fein’s vague answers to simple questions. Where else is the specificity of language as cossetted as in law? And yet, much of the day concerns the gradual demystification of the prosecution’s shield of semantics. At moments, Lind seems to be pressing for direct common sense: A “damage assessment,” for instance, still exists even if it goes by other names (assessment, investigation, report, draft, interim, working papers) or is a work-in-progress. Seems plain enough, and yet the court’s official ruling on the matter has to wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, Manning—despite a ludicrously inaccurate headline from the UK’s Daily Mail—looks anything but “gaunt” or “frail.” On the contrary, for someone facing the prospect of a life behind bars, the 5’2″ defendant seems decidedly upbeat, at turns sharing a joke with his counsel or attentively following along.
And yet, these ostensible causes for optimism are underscored by the fact that most of this week’s debates (regarding merit, intention, damages) have already been deemed irrelevant in determining Manning’s guilt or innocence. As the defense passionately stated today, this is very much a David and Goliath situation, with a private law practice facing a full-time military legal team and a case where the government is essentially being asked to ask itself to disclose crucial documents that it has the luxury of then redacting to Kafkaesque extremes.
Funny that achieving real transparency and disclosure should be such a struggle in the case of an accused whistleblower.
As someone who has attended two previous pretrial hearings, I thought today was especially interesting. It began with the judge ruling that the government must produce for the defense WikiLeaks damage assessment reports that the government had tried to argue were irrelevant to the case. Next, the defense suggested that the prosecution had been making misleading statements about important matters in closed-door hearings. Next, David Coombs (Bradley’s leading defense attorney) made an impassioned argument that the government had not been properly fulfilling their obligations to look for and turn over evidence as requested. The judge at one point stated that it appeared in certain cases this was true, that the prosecution wasn’t doing their duty. As the government prosecution has much easier access to government evidence than the defense, these debates have the potential to slightly level what is currently a deck stacked high against Bradley. Coombs’ arguments have been thorough and eloquent, and at this time it’s important that people who want to see Bradley free and war criminals held accountable keep supporting the defense in whatever capacity they can. You can support the defense fund here.
“Yesterday about 25 activists and I attended a pre-trial hearing for Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old army intelligence analyst who allegedly leaked the Collateral Murder video along with other classified documents that exposed the corruption of US military actions abroad. We arrived at 7:00 am, an hour before the hearing began, to protest with signs. A few cars driving by called out signs of support or honked, but others yelled out negative remarks like, “Hang him!” During the hearing, I sat three rows behind Manning and his defense team. I was surprised to see Manning in person; he seemed so young in comparison to the other older, more experienced lawyers, security guards, and judge in the room.” (read her full report…)
And here are more pictures from the vigil,