Bradley's defense argues Obama must testify

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Legal team for Army PFC Bradley Manning fights for fair deal at pre-trial “Article 32” hearing, supporters rally

Jeff Paterson
Courage to Resist
December 12, 2011

Lead lawyer for accused WiliLeaks whistle-blower US Army PFC Bradley Manning, attorney David Coombs released the defense’s witness list for his pre-trial hearing, known as an “Article 32” hearing in military lingo, last week. On December 16th, PFC Manning may finally get his first day in court following his arrest in May 2010. The pre-trial phase is scheduled to begin at Fort Meade, just northeast of Washington DC, and last through December 22nd. The witness list represents an expansive range of 48 witnesses that offer significant insight into the brewing legal battle.

PFC Manning, a 23-year-old Army intelligence analyst, is accused of blowing the whistle on the “Collateral Murder” video of a US helicopter attack that killed a dozen unarmed Iraqis, the “Iraq War Logs”, the “Afghan Diaries”, the “Gitmo Files”, and a trove of embarrassing US State Department cables by providing these files to the WikiLeaks website. In short, he is being charged with telling us the truth.

The actual charges are “various offenses under Article 92 and Article 134” of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, noted Mr. Coombs in last week’s court filling. “The offenses deal with the incorporation, under Article 134, of the Espionage Statute 18 U.S.C 793(e),” along with property and computer fraud statutes. According to the Army, PFC Manning faces “confinement for life”, followed by a dishonorable discharge.

The most significant witnesses listed are President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Two health care professionals on staff at the Quantico Marine Brig--where PFC Manning was subjected to torturous conditions for nine months--are also noteworthy.

President Obama’s unlawful declarations and commitment to transparency questioned

obamaThe headline witness requested by the defense is President Barack Obama. While all witness names were redacted, the identity of witness #36 is not in question. The court document reads:

The defense requests the presence of --- in order to discuss the issue of Unlawful Command Influence (UCI)... Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a superior officer in the chain of command is prohibited from saying or doing anything that could influence any decision by a subordinate in how to handle a military justice matter. As the --- made improper comments on 21 April 2011, when he decided to comment on PFC Manning and his case. On that date, he responded to questions regarding PFC Manning’s alleged actions by concluding that “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make their own decision about how the laws operate. He [PFC Manning] broke the law.” The comments by --- are UCI. The defense intends to question --- on the nature of his discussions with members of the military regarding this case and whether he has made any other statements that would either influence the prosecution of this case or PFC Manning’s right to a fair trial.

In addition to President Obama’s views of the release of Afghanistan related documents by WikiLeaks, the defense believes Obama will:

Testify about the problem of over-classification within the government. Specifically, that he supported and signed into law the Reducing Over-Classification Act on 7 October 2010. Additionally, he will testify that on his first full day in office, 21 January 2009, he issued two memoranda for the head of Executive Departments and Agencies that were related to transparency in government. The first memorandum focused on the administration of the Freedom of information Act (FOIA), and the second focused on transparency and open government. --- will testify that the transparency memorandum he wrote committed the administration to “an unprecedented level of openness” and to the establishment of a “a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.”...

These requests represent an aggressive attempt by PFC Manning’s legal team to get at the heart of the issues at play in this continuing persecution: Government transparency or the lack there of, and the over-classification of documents for no legitimate security purposes.