As Bradley Manning trial nears the end, journalism itself is on trial

For the past year and a half, Alexa O'Brien has been covering the largely secret court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked government documents to Wikileaks after being rebuffed by US newspapers he contacted with the same. Alexa produced the only available pre-trial transcripts for much of this time, and produced reporting and analysis regularly while larger news organizations mostly ignored the case. She also created a forensically reconstructed appellate exhibit list, witness profiles, and a searchable database of the available court record. Today, from Fort Meade, Maryland, she writes an extensive recap of exactly where the trial stands in its final phase, for Daily Beast.

Here's how secret the trial is: when the Defense Intelligence Agency's counterespionage chief testified in a closed session, the courtroom windows were literally covered with aluminum foil to prevent anyone from reading the sound vibrations and capturing any portion of what he said. A tinfoil hat for the entire courtroom, which is on a military base with highly restricted access, to begin with. More from Alexa:

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Bradley Manning court-martial nears final phase today at Ft. Meade

Photo: Protesters line the entrance to Fort Meade, the army base which houses the military court where Wikileaks source PFC Bradley Manning is on trial. Alexa O'Brien.

The court-martial of PFC Bradley Manning, who leaked government documents to Wikileaks and is being charged by the government with "aiding the enemy," enters its final phase today.

Court will be called into session at 3pm ET. After the judge, Col. Denise Lind, rules on the possibility of a government rebuttal to the defense's case, we can expect motions to dismiss and closing arguments to be presented. Then Judge Lind will deliberate for an unknown period of hours or days. Then, a verdict, to be followed by a sentencing phase.

I traveled to the trial last week, and blogged about it here.

Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the US to drop the controversial "aiding the enemy" charge against Manning. Read the rest

In final phase of Bradley Manning trial, a defense of Wikileaks

Charlie Savage at the New York Times covers proceedings in the court-martial of PFC Bradley Manning at Ft. Meade, on the day the defense rested its case. The final witness for the defense was Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, who authored this widely-cited paper on WikiLeaks. Benkler testified that the organization served a legitimate journalistic role when Manning leaked it some 700,000 or more secret government files. Read the rest

Judge in Manning Wikileaks trial rules crowdfunded stenographers should get permanent court access

Photo: Bradley Manning, via

Huge news from the Freedom of the Press Foundation's Trevor Timm:

Bradley Manning’s defense lawyer David Coombs brought up our crowd-funded stenographers in court during the morning session, and we’re happy to say, once and for all, that the judge ruled the government must make permanent accomodations for the stenographers. The stenographers were in the media room yesterday on press passes borrowed from other media organizations.

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Prosecution case against Manning puts American media on "enemies list"

The New Yorker points out the obvious implication if leaking to the press is taken as aiding the enemy:
Wikileaks “released” to the public, and in coöperation with other media outlets, not at some Al Qaeda dead drop. Readers of the New York Times, the Guardian, and other publications read it, too, after those outlets made the files not only available but more easily searchable. Perhaps another prosecutor, in this case or the next one, will argue that a defendant should have “understood the nature” of the Times. Or that of The New Yorker. What might it have meant, legally, if a copy of our magazine, bought at a news kiosk in Karachi, was found rolled up on the floor of bin Laden’s complex in Abbottabad? How much are we meant to be judged by what we can guess about the character of our readers?
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Veil of secrecy around Manning case makes a public trial "a state secret in plain sight"

New York Times media columnist David Carr has a piece out today about how reporters covering the pretrial hearings for Pfc. Bradley Manning over the past year have encountered roadblocks in accessing even the most basic information. Even such routine items as "dockets of court activity and transcripts of the proceedings" have been withheld by the government.

"A public trial over state secrets was itself becoming a state secret in plain sight," Carr writes.

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Impact of Manning case on media: "Death to Whistleblowers?"

"If successful, the prosecution will establish a chilling precedent: national security leaks may subject the leakers to a capital prosecution or at least life imprisonment. Anyone who holds freedom of the press dear should shudder at the threat that the prosecution’s theory presents to journalists, their sources and the public that relies on them." Floyd Abrams and Yochai Benkler, in a NYT op-ed published today. Read the rest

Manning pleads guilty to lesser charges, with 20 years max sentence, but not to aiding enemy

Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to "10 lesser charges", and will read out a 35-page statement on the leak of diplomatic cables to Wikileaks and the motivations behind it, according to The Guardian's Ed Pilkington. Pilkington reports that the charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years, "but #BradleyManning pleads NOT guilty to the big government charge - 'aiding the enemy' - that could see him jailed for life." Read the rest

"I invoke."

This text file purports to be a transcript of David House's grand jury testimony. House is a friend and supporter of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of sending secret documents to Wikileaks, and hence to the press. [via @Glinner and @azzamckazza] Read the rest

Ellsberg on Manning

"[President Obama] is involved in a war against leakers, against whistle-blowers." Read the rest

Army: Manning asked Assange to help crack password

Wired’s Kim Zetter, reporting from Army Pvt. Bradley Manning’s first hearing on charges of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks: “Manning asked “Nathaniel Frank,” believed to be Assange, about help in cracking the main password on his classified SIPRnet computer so that he could log on to it anonymously. He asked “Frank” if he had experience cracking IM NT hashes (presumably it’s a mistype and he meant NTLM for the Microsoft NT LAN Manager). 'Frank' replied yes, that they had 'rainbow tables' for doing that. Manning then sent him what looked like a hash.” Read the rest

Bradley Manning Had Secrets

Adam Butcher's short film is a portrait of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of sending thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks. With dialog based on the chatlogs that incriminated him, and pixel-art rotoscoping of live footage, the overall effect is strangely dehumanizing—an echo of what happens when secrets private and political come to define one's predicament. Read the rest

Bradley Manning Pre-Trial Hearing under way in Maryland

Kevin Gosztola at FireDogLake is live-blogging/live-tweeting the Bradley Manning Pre-Trial Hearing at Fort Meade today. The military's statement announcing the hearing is here (PDF). Read the rest

U.S. government seeks to block Manning defense witnesses

The government seeks to block every defense witness named by alleged wikileaker Bradley Manning's defense team. [Threat Level, Wired] Read the rest