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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Closing arguments in Bradley Manning court-martial paint Wikileaks source as glory-seeking traitor

Inside a small courthouse on the Army base in Fort Meade, Maryland, Army prosecutors are presenting closing arguments in their case against Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked hundreds of thousands of government documents to Wikileaks.

According to Maj. Ashden Fein today, the 25-year-old former intel analyst betrayed his country’s trust and handed government secrets to Julian Assange in search of fame and glory, knowing that in doing so, the material would be made visible to Al Qaeda and its then-leader Osama bin Laden.

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US v. Bradley Manning court-martial told in graphic novel form by 'Wikileaks Truck' artist

[Video: book trailer.]

Clark Stoeckley, the artist who has driven the "Wikileaks Truck" on to the Fort Meade Army base for nearly every day of the United States vs. PFC Bradley Manning trial and sketched the participants in this historic trial, is doing a graphic novel about the case. It will be available in September 2013 as either a paper book or ebook.

I visited the trial a few weeks ago and spent some time with Clark, watching him do his work and watching the expressions on the faces of the guys on base when he drove up in the Wikileaks Truck, emblazoned with "Release Bradley Manning" on the back and "Mobile Information Collection Unit" on the side. He's one dedicated artist, and it takes a special kind of grit to pull that off.

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Is Judge Denise Lind Bradley Manning’s biggest enemy?

On Thursday at the court-martial of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning, military judge Col. Denise Lind refused to toss out ‘aiding the enemy’ and other weakly substantiated charges by the government against the 25 year old former intelligence specialist. Alexa O’Brien writes about Lind's previous rulings and her history of deference to the prosecution. [The Daily Beast]

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.

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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.

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


Photo: Bradley Manning, via standwithbrad.org

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?

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.

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."

"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]

Ellsberg on Manning

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

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.”