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Criminalizing Journalism: Manning, Media and You


Illustration: Reuters/William Hennessy

On Tuesday, Bradley Manning was acquitted of “aiding the enemy” for leaking 700,000 classified government documents, including a video of an American airstrike in Baghdad that killed 12 civilians, among them two Reuters journalists.

While aiding the enemy was the most serious charge he faced, Manning was still found guilty of numerous counts of espionage and other charges, which could land him in jail for the rest of his life.

And while many journalists are breathing a sigh of relief about the aiding-the-enemy decision, we shouldn’t forget how hard the government pushed for that particular conviction.

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Stephen Colbert on Bradley Manning trial: "We, the American People, Are the Enemy"

On the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert nails it on the Bradley Manning verdict: we have met the enemy, and he is us. Xeni 9

UPDATED: Extra charges for Bradley Manning because he used a computer


Update: EFF has retracted this post.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor Timm explains a disturbing and overlooked fact about the trial of Bradley Manning; the charge-sheet against him included two separate felonies under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an ancient anti-hacking statute that has been used as a club to threaten security researchers and activists like Aaron Swartz. The CFAA makes it a separate offense to leak classified information using a computer, such that anyone caught doing so can be charged twice: first under the Espionage Act and again under the CFAA.

This gives tremendous and terrible leverage to prosecutors, who come to the negotiating table with double the ammo: "We'll drop the CFAA charges if you plead guilty to the Espionage Act charges" (or vice-versa). The reality is that there's nothing special about using a computer to leak documents -- indeed, these days you'd be hard pressed not to use a computer -- now that photocopiers, fax machines, phones, cameras and even the daily paper are all built out of computers.

Several Congresses have failed to modernize the CFAA, because the DoJ has forcefully argued that the ability to threaten people with decades in jail for simply using computers has given them the leverage to force "bad guys" to plead guilty, rather than getting a day in court.

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Manning court-martial: sentencing phase continues, with government witnesses


My copy of Bradley Manning's charge sheet, handed to me by an Army public affairs officer as I was escorted into Judge Lind's courtroom to hear the verdict on July 30, 2013. I scribbled "guilty/not guilty" next to each charge as she read her verdict. [XJ].

The sentencing phase in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning is ongoing at Fort Meade, Maryland. On Tuesday, judge Col. Denise R. Lind found the 25-year-old former Army intelligence analyst guilty of 20 of the 22 charges the government brought against him. Manning was convicted on six counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act. He was found not guilty of the most serious charge, "aiding the enemy," which carried a possible life sentence--but the guilty charges add up to a potential 136 years in prison. The actual sentence he receives is likely to be shorter, according to military law experts.

I've created a Twitter list of reporters who are at Fort Meade in the media operations center, about a quarter-mile away from the closed courtroom where the proceedings are taking place. Absolutely no laptops, phones, or other communication devices allowed inside court, but back at the media center, press can use laptops to transmit updates when court is not in session (more on restrictions ">in this previous post). On the Twitter list, I included other central figures in the trial like Manning's attorney, David Coombs, and reporters who aren't there every day but are producing notably reliable reporting on the trial.

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After Bradley Manning's mixed verdict, trial moves to sentencing phase

On Tuesday, Col. Denise Lind, the military judge in Bradley Manning's court-martial, found the former Army intelligence officer guilty of 20 of 22 charges brought by the government against him.

The 25-year-old Oklahoma native was accused of leaking classified information while stationed in Iraq to Julian Assange, who published it at Wikileaks.org and provided news organizations with access. Manning was found not guilty of "aiding the enemy," the most serious charge which carried a possible life sentence, but was found guilty of 6 Espionage Act charges and other offenses that could add up to 136 years of prison time.

Today, at 930am Eastern time, Judge Lind reconvened court at Fort Meade to begin the sentencing phase of the trial.

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Yes, there's a Taiwanese animated explainer video of the Bradley Manning verdict

Thanks to Jessica Wu of nma.com.tw for pointing us to this (inevitable) video explainer of yesterday's news in the Bradley Manning trial. I was there, right in the courtroom as the verdict was read, and I can tell you it looked exactly like this.

Bradley Manning verdict: transcript, via Freedom of the Press Foundation

Here is a transcript of today's verdict in the Bradley Manning case, provided by Freedom of the Press Foundation court stenographers: PDF link.

FotPF's Trevor Timm writes that the military court's "decision is a terrible blow to both investigative journalists and the sources they rely on to inform the public."

Our Boing Boing coverage of the verdict is here, and my notes from this morning at Ft. Meade are here.

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EFF on Bradley Manning verdict, and Hacker Madness

Electronic Frontier Foundation legal director Cindy Cohn has published an original take on the Bradley Manning prosecution at the EFF's blog. In it, she recounts how government prosecutors portrayed the 25 year old former Army intelligence specialist as uniquely menacing because of his knowledge of computers and digital tools. In other words, exploiting the judge's lack of familiarity with technology. Cohn describes this as "Hacker madness."
[T]he decision today continues a trend of government prosecutions that use familiarity with digital tools and knowledge of computers as a scare tactic and a basis for obtaining grossly disproportionate and unfair punishments, strategies enabled by broad, vague laws like the CFAA and the Espionage Act. Let's call this the “hacker madness” strategy. Using it, the prosecution portrays actions taken by someone using a computer as more dangerous or scary than they actually are by highlighting the digital tools used to a nontechnical or even technophobic judge.
Bradley Manning Verdict and the Dangerous “Hacker Madness” Prosecution Strategy [eff.org, via Trevor Timm]

Link: Boing Boing's Bradley Manning trial coverage archives.

Bradley Manning found not guilty of aiding enemy, but convicted on lesser charges, faces up to 136 years

Pvt. Bradley Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy today, but convicted on multiple lesser counts, including violating the Espionage Act.

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World awaits verdict in Bradley Manning's trial

Xeni Jardin reports from Ft. Meade, Md., on the trial of the accused Wikileaks whistleblower

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Manning trial judge: verdict coming 1 p.m. Tuesday

Presiding judge Col. Denise Lind says that a verdict in the trial of Pvt. Bradley Manning will be delivered at 1 p.m. EST Tuesday. Follow Xeni on Twitter for the latest from Fort Meade.

Notes from the ducking stool: wget as evidence of guilt at the Manning trial


A moment of outstanding absurdity from the Manning trial: prosecutors inquiring in tones of menace whether a witness is familiar with "wget" -- a standard Unix command for fetching a file from the Web ("wget" = "Web get") that many of us use routinely.

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Closing arguments continue in Bradley Manning trial, verdict may come as soon as weekend

A ruling in the Bradley Manning court-martial could come as early as this weekend from the military Judge, Col. Denise Lind. Reporters are back at Ft. Meade for what is likely to be the final day of closing arguments and proceedings before that decision happens. Yesterday, press reported of newly extreme policing of their activities by armed military guards, which was later found to be the result of an order by the judge. Below, a few morning tweets from news reporters, bloggers, and artists who are back at it again today. Army Internet has been periodically shut off for press, and they're not allowed to bring their own mobile internet devices.

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Bradley Manning trial judge increased press security "because of repeat violations of the rules of court”


Col. Denise Lind, the Judge in the Bradley Manning military trial. Pic by Clark Stoeckley (twitter: @wikileakstruck).

Huffington Post reporter Matt Sledge read my Boing Boing post earlier today about reports from the Bradley Manning trial of dramatically-increased security measures for press. Those measures including armed military police standing behind journalists at their laptops, snooping on their screens.

He reports that the new, oppressive security measures were ordered directly by the judge because reporters were violating court rules (which no one can find a copy of), and carrying "prohibited electronics." For this, the government needs armed military police standing right behind reporters as they type, in the media room.

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Journalists at Bradley Manning trial report hostile conditions for press


UPDATE: Bradley Manning trial judge increased press security "because of repeat violations of the rules of court.”


Journalists and bloggers covering closing arguments in the military trial of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning are reporting a far more intense security climate at Ft. Meade today, as compared to the past 18 months of pre-trial hearings and court proceedings.

@carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanLfuller, and @wikileakstruck have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, being "screamed at" for having "windows" open on their computers that show Twitter in a browser tab, and having to undergo extensive, repeated, invasive physical searches.

I visited the trial two weeks ago. While there were many restrictions for attending press that I found surprising (reporters couldn't work from the courtroom, mobile devices weren't allowed in the press room), it wasn't this bad. I was treated respectfully and courteously by Army Public Affairs Officers and military police, and was only grumped at a few times for stretching those (silly) restrictions. I was physically searched only once, when entering the courtroom, and that's standard for civilian or military trials.

But the vibe is very different today in the Smallwood building where reporters are required to work, about a quarter mile away from the actual courtroom. Tweets from some of the attending journalists are below; there are about 40-50 of them present and not all are tweeting. Internet access is spotty today. Oh, wait; as I type this blog post, I'm now seeing updates that they're being told they are not allowed to access Twitter at all. Why has the climate changed so much in the final few days of the trial? What is the Army afraid of?

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