On Monday, July 8, Bradley Manning’s defense began with what was surely one of the most intense and unusual openings in U.S. military or civilian court history. Almost without introduction, the 39 minute version of Collateral Murder was played on five screens, while the military judge seemed to read along from the chilling transcript. The more frequently viewed 17 minute version has the Apache helicopter attack on a group of Iraqis, including a cameraman and reporter working for Reuters. But the prosecution, for unfathomable reasons, insisted that the longer version, which includes another horrific attack from the Apache on an apparently unarmed Iraqi.
There were tears in the full court room at all the appropriate points. 25 of Bradley’s supporters were allowed in the public seats at any one time, switching with 52 others who filled the overflow trailer. We succeeded in having the largest turnout to date to support Bradley at trial, including many who were coming for the first time, 24 of us from New York. The security detail counted and re-counted, short of badges, nervously herding the overflow.
The Collateral Murder footage was what made us support Bradley before we had any idea he existed. On April 5, 2010, when Wikileaks first published the video which they named Collateral Murder, we knew it was a myth-breaker for those who still thought the U.S. was in Iraq to “save” lives and help people. The Standard Operating Procedure of U.S. war-fighting in contested urban areas of occupation came through strongly enough visually. Add in the callous, outrageous chatter of the gunners – which was what Bradley testified this past February caught his attention and horrified him — and you have crimes of war writ large.
This footage figures importantly in the U.S. case against Bradley, as they argue he intentionally released it and other material to Wikileaks, knowing it would get into the hands of “the enemy.” But the defense presented testimony that the footage had already been in the public domain, was no longer classified, and that Bradley was not collaborating with Wikileaks, but rather leaked the material to them when other news organizations didn’t respond to his entreaties to publish the real story of the Iraq & Afghanistan occupations.
Col. Morris Davis was brought by the defense to speak to another contention of the prosecution, that leaking the Guantanamo Detainee Assessment Briefs caused harm because “the enemy” could read them. Davis, a military lawyer and law professor now at Howard, was put in charge of the whole military prosecution structure at Guantanamo in 2005, but quit in protest in 2007 because he said it would be impossible to promote just prosecutions. He was the author of the Close Guantanamo petition on Change.org in May, which more than 200,000 people signed. Ed Pilkington wrote in The Guardian:
Davis said he had also checked against information provided in newspaper articles, a docu-drama called The Road to Guantánamo and a book, The Guantánamo Files, that was published three years before the WikiLeaks disclosures. He said he had concluded that “if you watch the movie, read the book and the articles, you would know more about them than if you read the detainee assessment briefs”.
Davis testified that the DAB’s were almost useless to the prosecution, because they were so hastily and casually constructed. We learned Tuesday that the five DAB’s picked out by the prosecution — although of course this was all kept secret in the courtroom — included Shaker Aamer. Aamer is outrageously, still at Guantanamo after eleven years, although he was cleared for release by Bush in 2007, and again in 2010. Three others were members of the Tipton 3, featured in the film The Road to Guantanamo, who got out years ago, and in our friend Andy Worthington’s book. None of the erroneous and incomplete information gathered by US intelligence years ago could have any relevance now compared to actual journalism.
The Justice Department has an ongoing grand jury investigation into Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and an active interest in the case against Manning, as a route to potential prosecution of Wikileaks. There was testimony today by defense witness Harvard professor Yochai Benkler who contends that Wikileaks is a legitimate news organization, thereby entitled to First Amendment protection, and not “the enemy” Manning is charged with aiding.
Kevin Gosztola noted,
What happens here will create precedent for pursuing future whistleblowers or leakers. Depending on how WikiLeaks ends up being cast in the ruling, it may become a factor in how the US government continues its investigation and potential indictment of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, WikiLeaks staffers or volunteers connected to WikiLeaks.
The defense rested on July 10, after ten witnesses testified. The court martial resumes at 3:00 pm Monday July 15, with more motion arguments, and an expected rebuttal from the prosecution. There may be more from the defense before the Judge announces decisions on the 22 charges. Then the trial moves to the sentencing phase, which will likely involve weeks more of arguments.
Stay tuned for another call-out for maximum support at the trial.
These reporters have been at the trial every day:
Coverage from Associated Press and The New York Times has been occasional.