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Defense Gives Closing Argument in Bradley Manning’s Trial (Live Updates)

David Coombs delivers the closing arguments for the defense. Pic by C. Stoeckley.

5:40 PM EST The Judge: “Alright, court is closed.” Deliberation on the verdict begins.

5:06 PM EST The government has stated multiple times now, in some way or another, that Bradley Manning knew that ‘the entire world’ included the enemy.

Consider: If ‘the entire world’ includes the enemy, what happens when sources for national security news stories provide information to journalists? If the world, the public and internet readers all include ‘the enemy’, what I publish on national security issues for ‘the world’ could ‘aid enemies’. That’s the logic that the government is using right now.

As a reporter, I have no intention to “aid the enemy,” only to inform the public. But, there’s no intent requirement to this particular charge in the Manning case. I know that someone in Al Qaeda could access and read Firedoglake just as the NY Times reporters know that what they write could be read [by virtually anyone in the public].

So what then happens when information that is published to hold a government accountable is then cast (by that same government) as something that ‘terrorists’ can use as propaganda? Conclusion: This is government casting a chill on our freedom of the press; particularly, a chill on national security journalism. It’s using military justice to defend (unnecessary) secrecy.

5:00 PM EST The prosecution: Manning made sure that Al Qaeda could go to WikiLeaks and “data mine” valuable intelligence information.

Fein: “The defense contends that this is whistleblowing, because he could have taken millions of documents (but didn’t).”

This is the first instance in the trial that the government has explicitly addressed whether Bradley Manning was a whistleblower or not, by arguing how he couldn’t be one.

The government has said that Manning did not read every document he gave to WikiLeaks; they specifically cited 251,000 diplomatic cables. Fein is saying that Manning could’ve gone to a team leader, squad leader, a chaplain or a JAG” with any concerns about what he was seeing.

Maj. Fein maintains that Bradley Manning could have “exercised” his “rights under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act.” “He did not reach out to a congressman about abuses he allegedly saw.”

The government is suggesting that if he went up the chain of command and exercised his rights under MWPA but got nowhere, then he could go to press as a “last resort.”

We are still having internet problems here in the Media center at Fort Meade.

4:40 PM EST Maj. Fein during his rebuttal: “Instead of the American flag, Manning placed his trust in WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.”

3:45 PM EST We are back in court, where the government will begin its rebuttal shortly.

3:35 PM EST My latest article about today’s proceedings is now up. You can read it here on The Dissenter.

2:56 PM EST The complete military statement about banning sketch artist Clark Stoeckley from the court martial:

“A member of the media has been barred from the court-martial by order of the military judge for posting threatening messages regarding some of the court-martial participants. The judge sealed the order so no other details will be forthcoming.

“The safety and security of all personnel participating in United States vs. Pfc. Bradley Manning is of utmost importance throughout the legal proceedings.”

Clark’s initial public response has been to thank people for their concern, but also to ask people to allow him to try and remedy the situation on his own terms. He specifically asks that everyone “Please, do not call the PAO or Ft. Meade” on his behalf.

2:35 PM EST There will be no verdict today or over the weekend.

1:34 PM EST The defense has finished closing arguments.

Sketch artist Clark Stoeckley has been banned from the courtroom and the media center for the rest of the Bradley Manning court martial. Clark has been one of a handful of media attending the trial every day. His sketches have appeared in every one of our Live Updates’ posts covering the Manning court martial. Details forthcoming.

Alexa O’Brien: A conservative reporter from a major American paper has said that the condition in the press pool reminds them of their work in Libya under Gaddafi. @carwinb

12:41 PM EST The Defense says that Daniel Lewis, who valuated information, only gave guesses. Lewis had no experience doing this, but testified anyway, despite the court not qualifying him as an expert in valuation.

12:38 PM EST Addressing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act charges, Coombs says, “There’s no such thing as an implicit access restriction.”

12:35 PM EST Coombs points out that the government’s proof of stealing, by ‘valuing’ the information, makes the prosecution’s arguments around the Espionage Act violations vulnerable.

The Defense argues “no one truly understood rules” of what was allowed around music, movies, games or executable files.

12:25 PM EST Manning must have been the “worst employee of all time for WikiLeaks,” David Coombs said. Manning searched, at most, for four of the seventy-eight items on the 2009 “Most Wanted” list that the government claims was his “guiding light.” He “has to be the absolute worst employee ever because of all the access”—if in fact he was working for WikiLeaks as the government has maintained.

12:20 PM EST The Defense continues their closing argument: The War logs contained events that were obviously “observable by the enemy.”

“It’s common sense that our enemies adjust for what we do and we adjust for what they do.”

“If this information is what we might sell to countries, it cannot also be information that would damage the U.S.”

11:07 AM EST Coombs states, “The government gave a diatribe yesterday, and a lot of it was not based in fact.”

11:00 AM EST Coombs played three clips from the “Collateral Murder” video and described what Manning would’ve been thinking when he saw 9 civilians killed.

10:57 AM EST The defense’s  closing argument focuses on the “child logic” and inconsistencies of the government’s case. David Coombs accuses the government of creating a fictitious story to fit the charges.

Original Post:

The defense for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier on trial for releasing United States government information to WikiLeaks, will deliver its closing argument today.

The closing argument is expected to last at least two hours and will follow a closing argument by the prosecution that was nearly five hours yesterday. Yesterday, Manning’s civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, told Manning supporters in attendance to attend today’s proceedings if they wanted to hear the truth.

The government spent a good part of their closing argument demonizing Manning. He was described as an “anarchist,” “hacker,” and, for the first time in the court martial, a military prosecutor used the word “traitor” when arguing what Manning had done.

Military prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein outlined what the government considered to be evidence Manning was “aiding the enemy.” He went through each piece of information Manning is charged with disclosing without authorization and described how that disclosure constituted an offense of stealing, exceeding authorized access on his computer, and wantonly causing to be published intelligence to the enemy. [Reports from yesterday can be read here and here. My Live Updates post of Thursday’s proceedings is here.]

Now, as has been typical during the court martial, media access or press freedom became a part of the story. The judge issued an order to have military police in the media center. A checkpoint was set up to screen the reporters to ensure that electronic devices that could be used to record proceedings and personal hotspot devices did not enter the media center.

Armed military police officers patrolled the aisles and walked behind reporters trying to cover the trial yesterday. Although the internet was very unreliable and not working for most of the morning and early afternoon, the military police were still leaning over shoulders of reporters to see what was on their screens.

I was told by a military police officer to not have Twitter open at all in the morning. That was not a warning to stop sending messages on Twitter. It was a warning to just not have any window up that might make it look like I was considering sending messages on Twitter.

Later in the afternoon, I was told by a military police officer not to have any windows open at all. I told him I was not doing anything. In typical police fashion, he said he was not going to discuss it with me here, but if I wanted to have a discussion, we could take this outside. I had nothing to explain. I signed no rules requiring me to not have windows open on my computer. I also do not have to make his job easier by having them closed.

The justification for the presence of military police was that reporters had been “violating” the rules. I asked, from an enforcement perspective, if the public affairs officers had decided to not remove reporters who were “violating” the rules. I was unaware that reporters were routinely “violating” any rules.

What I was essentially told is that there have been people here for a long time covering the court martial. Instead of telling them they could no longer cover, it was best to send people over, who could setup a security regime press would have to submit to inside the media center.

The military has someone tracking messages sent on Twitter. They know who is credentialed to cover the proceedings and can monitor the Internet for updates. The military can also pull reporters aside and enforce the rules, rather than engage in collective punishment.

The snooping on journalists was a purely authoritarian reaction, but it has not continued today. I made a recommendation yesterday that the military choose one or the other: patrol the press with armed military police or kill the Internet when court is gaveled to order. They decided to end the patrolling and turn off the Internet at the end of each break or recess.

Court illustrations by Clark Stoeckley. Used with permission.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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