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Bradley Manning’s Speedy Trial Motion Hearing (Day 2)

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(Here is my appearance on “Breaking the Set” yesterday. )

The second day of the the latest motion hearing in the court martial of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, begins today. The government will continue to present their side of the argument against the defense’s motion that Manning’s speedy trial rights have been violated.

The government is calling Col. Carl Coffman, who has signed delays during the court martial process, to the stand to provide testimony today.

Yesterday, Bert Haggett, a classification review expert, testified on why reviewing classified information for the defense could take so long. Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the investigative officer who presided over Manning’s Article 32 hearing in December of last year, also testified on why he had excluded days around Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the first weeks of January, when he was putting together his report for the court martial convening authority after the Article 32 hearing on whether he found the charges should be referred to a court martial.

Much of this was overshadowed by the fact that David Coombs, defense lawyer for Manning, mentioned in court that Manning had revised his plea notice. He said Manning would accept responsibility for providing information to WikiLeaks. (FDL reported this here yesterday afternoon.)

Last night, to clarify and dispel some confusion, Coombs laid out in a full statement the following:

PFC Manning has offered to plead guilty to various offenses through a process known as “pleading by exceptions and substitutions.” To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government. Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses. The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea.

PFC Manning is not submitting a plea as part of an agreement or deal with the Government. Further, the Government does not need to agree to PFC Manning’s plea; the Court simply has to determine that the plea is legally permissible. If the Court allows PFC Manning to plead guilty by exceptions and substitutions, the Government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses. Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial.

PFC Manning has also provided notice of his forum selection. He has elected to be tried by Military Judge alone.

Court proceedings were scheduled to begin at about 8 am EST. Here’s updates from Day 1 of the speedy trial motion hearing yesterday.

Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network had a good post on what happened yesterday and Alexa O’Brien had a post on the plea and forum entered by Manning.


There were only two credentialed journalists, who managed to show up here yesterday—Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News and I. There were two or three others in the public gallery, including Nathan Fuller and Alexa O’Brien, who have regularly attended as members of the public to cover developments in Manning’s court martial. Other than that, no other press were here for a significant hearing in the court martial.

What this means is that this blog was the source for a major portion of the coverage of the news yesterday. Andy Greenberg of Forbes, Kim Zetter of Wired, Declan McCullagh of CNET, Adam Clark Estes of The Atlantic Wire and other sites or blogs referenced the post I did on Manning’s plea notice yesterday.

I do not write that because of vanity or some belief that I should be showered with praise for breaking news. What I mean to make clear is this is the biggest military justice case in US history. The judge has acknowledged that in whatever decision she hands down she will be trailblazing or setting some critical precedents legally. The classified review expert said he has never worked a case that involved such “a broad spectrum of information” and he had found it intimidating. Yet, the number of journalists showing up to cover these proceedings has usually been 3-5 journalists.

Fifteen thousand journalists went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to cover the Democratic National Convention. How many journalists are in and around DC? And, aren’t there students in colleges or universities possibly studying journalism that could be coming to these proceedings to cover and see history unfold?

The press has no access to court records in the case (something I and other journalists are suing the government over). When statements are made in court that are critical, it falls on the very few reporters there to get it out to the public. If it is heard or interpreted incorrectly or if what is reported is not understood by the public, there is no guarantee confusion will be dispelled. The defense may do a posting to their blog, but that does not mean some of the details the press and public are interested in will be fully clarified.

All of which is to say, when one reflects on how much coverage there was of Daniel Ellsberg, it is hard to not conclude that there should be much more coverage of Manning’s court martial. In the whole of the United States, there should be more than two to five journalists showing up regularly to cover the proceedings.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."