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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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Obama to pressure Putin to give up Snowden; White House says he's "not a dissident"


White House spokesperson Jay Carney.

"Mr. Snowden is not a human rights activist or dissident," White House spokesman Jay Carney said today, adding that "providing a propaganda platform" for the National Security Agency leaker was "counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia’s neutrality."

Previously, the US Ambassador to Russia is reported to have said the administration believes he's no whistleblower, either.

Snowden invited human rights groups to a meeting in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport earlier today to announce his plans to seek asylum in Russia. A Wikileaks representative was at his side.

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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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US vs. Bradley Manning: defense rests, Manning won't testify, Wikileaks gets respect


At dawn today, Army personnel at Ft. Meade inspected the vehicles of reporters who arrived to cover the Wikileaks trial. One of the vehicles was @wikileakstruck. Photo: Xeni Jardin.


Yochai Benkler testifying on July 10 in the Bradley Manning court martial. Sketch by Clark Stoeckley (@wikileakstruck).

I traveled to Ft. Meade, Maryland today to observe the trial of Army PFC. Bradley Manning. The 25-year-old Oklahoma native has admitted to providing Wikileaks with more than 700,000 leaked documents, which included battle reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, State Department diplomatic cables, and military videos from combat zones.

Manning downloaded the material from a military network in late 2009 and early 2010 while serving in Iraq as an intelligence analyst. WikiLeaks published much of the material, and shared it with news organizations including Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and the New York Times, which in turn published reports of their own based on the leaked material.

Manning has not, did not, and today told the court he will not testify in the military court martial. In March, however, he gave an extensive statement to Colonel Denise Lind's court about his motivations. Freedom of the Press Foundation, of which I am a board member, published an audio recording of that speech .

Manning has pled guilty to ten charges, which carry a maximum penalty of up to twenty years in prison. The government has continued to pursue all of its initial charges against him, including charges under the Espionage Act and "aiding the enemy." Civil liberties advocates argue that a guilty verdict could have dangerous consequences on press freedom and First Amendment issues in America.

The defense rested its case today after having called a total of ten witnesses in the trial. The last was Yochai Benkler, a Harvard professor who is the author of a widely-cited paper on the role WikiLeaks plays in what he terms "the networked fourth estate." In his testimony for the defense today, he described Wikileaks as having played a legitimate role in a new world of journalism; he argued that the government's characterization of the group as an Anti-American espionage front was inaccurate. And the prosecution inadvertently gave Benkler an opportunity to explain why an aiding the enemy charge against Manning is so extreme.

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Mastercard drops financial blockade of Wikileaks

Visa and PayPal are still blocking payments, but this seems like reasonably big news. What matters isn't just whether or not Wikileaks supporters can donate to Wikileaks, but the precedent such a blockade creates: can the US compel financial service providers to deny service when the recipient is a pro-transparency entity they don't like? (thanks, Micah Lee)

Ecuador: our London embassy was bugged

Representatives of the government of Ecuador in London claim to have discovered a hidden microphone inside its London embassy where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is living. The bug is being analyzed by forensics experts, and Ecuador intends to diclose more information on who controlled or planted it as they are available. It "was found inside the office of the Ecuadorean ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ana Alban, at the time of a visit to the embassy by Patino to meet with Assange on June 16." [Reuters]

Updated: Bolivian President's plane diverted on flight from Russia over suspicions Snowden was on board


L: Bolivian President Evo Morales. R: NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Bolivian officials say President Evo Morales' private plane was rerouted to Vienna, Austria last night after France and Portugal refused to allow it into their airspace over concerns NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board. Italy shut the door, too. By various reports, the plane was searched, and Snowden was nowhere to be found. A Bolivian official said the South American nation is outraged, and they "have the suspicion" the US is to blame for the unprecedented decision to close airspace to the president's plane. The flight was eventually allowed to continue, after Spain granted them permission to refuel in the Canary Islands. As of 10am ET, the plane is en route over the Atlantic, and you can track it here.

The Guardian has a liveblog with good coverage. Less than a week ago, US President Barack Obama said, "I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker." As many Twitter comedians have pointed out, Snowden just turned 30, so that may explain last night's drama.

If the story is as it appears, the United States has the power to compel other nations to ground a plane carrying a head of state, on the suspicion that it is carrying a whistleblower who says he exposed unjust secrets in an act of conscience. But the story may not be as it appears.

Here's the official statement from the Bolivian government, denouncing what it describes as an unprecedented act of "imperialist" aggression, and the effective "kidnapping" of its president, in violation of international law. Morales calls on the leaders of the countries that denied his plane to explain their "repressive policies."

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Snowden's Run

Click to enlarge.

Based on this classic movie poster. Photoshopped by Rob Beschizza. Read coverage of NSA leaker Edward Snowden in Boing Boing's archives.

Edward's Snowden's search for political asylum is not going well


Image: The Guardian

Wikileaks and various news agencies report that NSA leaker Edward Snowden has prepared asylum requests for (at least) 21 nations, including Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.

The government of Ecuador said they couldn't consider his request unless he was in Ecuador or inside one of their embassies. The US has revoked his passport, which makes getting anywhere difficult from his current (presumed) location: an international no-mans-land connected to Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.

The AP's Eastern Europe News Director, Ian Phillips, flew there to try and find Snowden. He didn't, despite wardialing all floors of the prison-hotel where stateless passengers are held. But his surreal account of 21 hours in Snowden's shoes is a must-read.

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NSA leaker Edward Snowden asks Russia for asylum, issues statement via Wikileaks


Image: The Guardian

The Interfax news agency today reported that a Russian consular official confirms Edward Snowden has asked for political asylum in Russia.

Interfax cited Kim Shevchenko, the duty officer at the Russian Foreign Ministry's consular office in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, as saying that Snowden's representative, Sarah Harrison, handed over his request Sunday.

Reuters and the New York Times previously reported that Snowden had applied for asylum with 15 different nations, after Ecuador's president issued statements indicating he would not find a home there.

Late today, Wikileaks published a statement from the whistleblower, who is wanted by the United States on charges of espionage, theft and conversion of government property:

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Ecuador president: Snowden can't leave Moscow (read: and won't be headed here any time soon)

NSA leaker Edward Snowden, whom the US would very much like in court, is "under the care of the Russian authorities" and can't leave Moscow's international airport without their consent, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa told the AP. His interview suggests that Snowden won't be ending up in the South American country any time soon. Earlier this week, Ecuadorean diplomats and lawmakers signaled irritation with Julian Assange, who they perceived as "running the show."

Why Iceland kicked out 8 or 9 FBI agents

Former Icelandic interior minister Ogmundur Jonasson says he asked "8 or 9" FBI agents to leave the country when he found out that they'd lied about their visit; they claimed they'd come to help prevent "an imminent attack on Icelandic government databases," but it turns out they were just digging up dirt on Wikileaks.

Private jet to Iceland awaits Edward Snowden

An Icelandic businessman and Wikileaks supporter named Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson has offered to fly Edward Snowden to Iceland by private jet, pending Icelandic Interior Ministry approval of asylum-seeker status for the NSA whistleblower. Sigurvinsson is a director of DataCell, who process donations to Wikileaks.

Julian Assange and John Perry Barlow in joint interview on NSA Prism leaks: "Snowden is a hero"

In this Sky News television interview with EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow, Julian Assange of Wikileaks describes Prism Leaker Edward Snowden as "a Hero."

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?

UK spooks' candid opinions of the Assange affair revealed

Julian Assange has presented a set of freedom-of-information data protection act liberated messages from GCHQ, the UK spy headquarters, concerning his own case. According to Assange, the messages reveal that UK spies believed that the Swedish rape inquiry against him was a "fit up" aimed at punishing him for his involvement in Wikileaks (many believe that the Swedish government would have aided in Assange's extradition to the USA, where there is a sealed Grand Jury indictment against him). He also revealed cables relating to the spies' candid opinion about his sheltering in the Ecuadorian embassy:

A message from September 2012, read out by Assange, apparently says: "They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ … It is definitely a fit-up… Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate..."

...A second instant message conversation from August last year between two unknown people saw them call Assange a fool for thinking Sweden would drop its attempt to extradite him.

The conversation, as read out by Assange, goes: "He reckons he will stay in the Ecuadorian embassy for six to 12 months when the charges against him will be dropped, but that is not really how it works now is it? He's a fool… Yeah … A highly optimistic fool."

GCHQ acknowledges that the messages are real, but, "The disclosed material includes personal comments between some members of staff and do not reflect GCHQ's policies or views in any way."

Julian Assange reveals GCHQ messages discussing Swedish extradition [Giles Tremlett and Ben Quinn/Guardian]

Icelandic Pirate Party lands three seats in Icelandic parliament

The Icelandic Pirate Party has won three seats in its national Parliament in the Pirates' best-ever showing on the world stage. They form a small part of the opposition to the "center-right" Independence Party (Americans, please note that the Independence Party would be considered socialists by present US mainstream political standards). One of the new Pirate parliamentarians is Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the Icelandic MP who volunteered for, and campaigned for Wikileaks. The Icelandic Pirate Party is only five nine months old!

The three new Icelandic lawmakers include Jón Þór Ólafsson, a business administration student at the University of Iceland; Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, a computer programmer; and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a well-known WikiLeaks volunteer and former member of parliament from 2009 to 2013.

Birgitta is also one of three activists involved in a WikiLeaks investigation currently underway in the United States. In November 2011, a district court judge found that prosecutors could compel Twitter to give up specific information on the three accounts, including IP addresses, direct messages, and other data. In January 2013, a federal appeals court in Virginia ruled (PDF) that Birgitta and the two others have no right to find out which other companies the government sought information from besides Twitter.

The trio, along with other members of Iceland’s digerati (including Smári McCarthy, who also is one of the organizers of the International Modern Media Initiative), founded the party just five months ago.

Pirate Party wins 3 seats in Icelandic parliament for its best result worldwide [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]

Wikileaks wins in Iceland's Supreme Court court over credit card payment blockade

In Iceland, Wikileaks has won a victory against a financial blockade on donations. "The court upheld a district court's ruling that MasterCard's local partner, Valitor, illegally ended its contract with Wikileaks," reports BBC News.

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.

Nominating Bradley Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize


Various politicians -- MPs and former MPs from Iceland and Tunisia, two Pirate Party MEPs from Sweden -- have nominated Bradley Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize. Anyone can nominate anyone else for the prize, but this is a particularly good one, especially given the torture Manning faced for his brave efforts, and the ongoing persecution he is experiencing. As the nominating letter points out, Obama has already publicly announced his belief that Manning is guilty, which makes rather a mockery of a fair trial.

Manning is a soldier in the United States army who stands accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The leaked documents pointed to a long history of corruption, war crimes, and a lack of respect for the sovereignty of other democratic nations by the United States government in international dealings.

These revelations have fueled democratic uprisings around the world, including a democratic revolution in Tunisia. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on the foreign and domestic policies of European nations, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S.troops from the occupation in Iraq.

Bradley Manning has been incarcerated for more then 1000 days by the U.S. Government. He spent over ten months of that time period in solitary confinement, conditions which expert worldwide have criticized as torturous. Juan Mendez, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has repeatedly requested and been denied a private meeting with Manning to assess his conditions.

Bradley Manning is nominated for a 2013 Nobel Peace Prize

(Image: Wikimedia Commons/Anubis3 - Public Domain)

Yochai Benkler: The dangerous logic of the Bradley Manning Case

Yochai Benkler, in The New Republic, on an exchange that took place in a military courtroom in January during pre-trial hearings in the Bradley Manning/Wikileaks case:
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, asked the prosecutors a brief but revealing question: Would you have pressed the same charges if Manning had given the documents not to WikiLeaks but directly to the New York Times?

The prosecutor’s answer was simple: 'Yes Ma'am.' The question was crisp and meaningful, not courtroom banter. The answer, in turn, was dead serious. I should know. I was the expert witness whose prospective testimony they were debating.

That "Yes ma'am," argues Benkler, makes Manning's prosecution "a clear and present danger to journalism in the national security arena." Read the rest.

Bradley Manning's statement

Alexa O'Brien transcribed the statement that Pvt. Bradley Manning read to the court yesterday. Manning pleaded guilty to exfiltrating classified documents, but not to a more serious charge of aiding the enemy. In his statement, Manning described his motivations for leaking the information, and said that he tried to contact other news media before Wikileaks, but was ignored.

Bradley Manning military trial updates: live-blogs, who to follow on Twitter, and analysis

Army private Bradley Manning pleaded guilty on Thursday to 10 of the 19 total charges made by the US that he leaked unprecedented amounts of classified material to Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organization run by Julian Assange.

Manning entered a not guilty plea to the government's more serious charge of "aiding the enemy," which carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. In a statement before the military court today, Manning said he leaked the classified information to "spark a domestic debate."

Liveblog coverage of his trial: Mother Jones, Reuters.

Ed Pilkington at the Guardian reports Manning first contacted the Washington Post about providing them with some of the classified material while he was on leave in January 2010; the the woman who answered the phone said the "paper would only be interested [in the documents] subjected to vetting by senior editors."

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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."

Army releases some documents on Bradley Manning case

In response to Freedom of Information Act requests, the military today released 84 court documents related to the case of Bradley Manning. As is routine, many of the documents are redacted.

The Army private is charged with being the source of classified documents published by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization headed by Julian Assange.

The documents released today include court orders, and various rulings read aloud in court. The DoD says more documents will be released, pending review and redaction.

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Cypherpunks: articulates and challenges Internet freedom


Cypherpunks -- a quick, stirring, scary read -- transcribes a wide-ranging conversation between Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum (Wikileaks/Tor Project), Andy Müller-Maguhn (Chaos Computer Club) and Jérémie Zimmermann (La Quadrature Du Net).

Edited together in thematic chapters (The Militarization of Cyberspace, Fighting Total Surveillance With the Laws of Physics, Private Sector Spying), Cypherpunks exceeded my expectations. I know some of the book's protagonists personally and know how smart and principled they are. But I was afraid, going into this, that what would emerge would be a kind of preaching-to-the-choir consensus, because all four of the participants are on the same side.

Instead, I found Cypherpunks to be a genuine debate, where each speaker's best arguments -- well-polished, well-spoken, and convincing -- were mercilessly tested by the others, who subjected them to hard questions and rigorous inspection. Most of our discussions about Wikileaks lack nuance, and they're often hijacked by personal questions about Assange. Whatever you feel about Assange, he is not Wikileaks -- Wikileaks is an activity, not an organization, and its participants, including Bradley Manning, are engaged in something important and difficult and fraught, and there is a place for a debate about whether the tactics of Wikileaks best serve a the strategic end of a free and open Internet in a just and humane society.

The debate recorded in Cypherpunks -- though leavened with humor and easy to follow -- covers a lot of nuance of the sort that has been missing from the discussion. The wider points -- that the universe's in-built mathematics favor the keeping of secrets because it is easier to encrypt a message than decrypt it, say -- may dazzle, but the getting down to cases afterward, the chewing the point over and challenging it, that's where the book shines.

There aren't many titles that pack as much argument, ambiguity and theory into as small a package as Cypherpunks. It's a book you can read in an hour or two, but you'll be thinking about it for years.

Cypherpunks

Noisebridge hackerspace explains fair use to Dreamworks


Dreamworks is producing a sensationalized, awful movie about Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Some of the action involves the Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco that Wikileaks's Jacob Appelbaum helped to found, so Dreamworks wrote to them asking for permission to use their logo. Noisebridge collectively penned a letter back explaining fair use and free speech to the representatives from Big Content who'd come a-knockin':

From your description, it should be clear to anyone watching your film that you're just using the image to talk about Noisebridge, not claim you are Noisebridge or that Noisebridge supports your film*.

Given this, Noisebridge as a community believes you have the free speech right to use such imagery without having to ask permission -- especially those who you might be implicitly criticising or commenting upon. Such a right is encoded in the existing nature of trademark and copyright with the idea of fair use.

Sadly, knowledge of such rights have been eroded over the years by the repeated claims of copyright maximalists, who would have you believe that you must beg to refer to us in your film -- or even that you would be beholden to us if, for instance, you parodied our disrespectful attitude to your concerns with the following image, which includes both of our identifying marks, the Noisebridge(TM) circuit, and the Unicorn Pissing A Rainbow(TM).

Such a position is lunacy and a genuine threat to free speech and the first amendment. You should exercise all of your fair use rights freely and without fear.

So we say tell your friends at DreamWorks to publish (or print, or produce) and be damned. Tell them we fully support them in their brave stand. You can say with confidence that the only conditions under which Noisebridge would sue them and their partners to the maximum damages entitled to us by law would be if it turned out that hackers like us were completely hypocritical nihilists out only for our own egotistical ends.

Given that you were so nice as to ask us, we can't imagine you think that of us.

DreamworksReply (Thanks, Danny!)