I’m not sure what was happening here earlier, but not being able to post gave me time to try out the new
swing and whips er, lawn mower.
What’s up with you all?
Thursday was the first day of the sentencing phase of PFC Manning’s court-martial. He was, you will all recall, acquitted of the Art. 104 specification for “Aiding the Enemy” which could possibly have resulted in his imprisonment for life. On Thursday, the Government witness stated under direct examination that the Taliban had executed a village elder in one village and claimed that they had found the man’s name and information in the Wikileaks document cache. On cross-examination, it was revealed that the witness, having searched that cache for that victim’s name, could not find the name anywhere. The Judge sustained the Defense’s objection to that part of the testimony and struck it from the record and stated that she would not consider it in her sentencing deliberations. On Friday, two State Department personnel were on the witness stand, and one testified that she had overseen the very expensive and time consuming process to move DoS secured traffic off of SIPRNet (the system that Manning compromised) and onto JWICS, a more secure system for TOP SECRET traffic. She testified as to the disruption in service this caused the State Department, as well as the financial cost, and the ongoing degredation of service, due to the various restrictions on that system and those who access it. Another State Department employee spoke about how several human rights activists in different places have stopped talking to them because their security can no longer be guaranteed, and how several people had to be extracted from their home countries and relocated to the US or to other locations for their safety. The court went into a classified session with this witness still on the stand.
Additionally, Manning’s legal team, consisting of David Coombs and two JA officers, filed several motions in relation to the Judge’s verdict, seeking to merge various specifications (and thereby limit Manning’s exposure to confinement) under the theory that convictions on multiple charges and specifications for singular or ongoing acts (referred to as multiplicity) is unfair and probably unconstitutional. This has been an ongoing issue in the military justice system for some time. For example, Manning was convicted of improperly accessing a secured computer on a certain date under one charge/spec. He was also convicted of stealing government property (data) on that date, under another charge/spec. He was convicted under another charge/spec for unlawfully placing classified data on an information system not rated or secured for that purpose (his own personal laptop) on that same date. And he was convicted of espionage as a charge/spec for transmitting that data to a foreign national not cleared to receive it, again on the same date. And finally, he was convicted of one charge/spec of conduct that was prejudicial go good order and discipline on that same date for committing acts that were violations of US law. It is Manning’s team’s contention that all of these acts were subordinate parts of one predicate crime, and that Manning should only be liable for the most serious crime, espionage, which would reduce his punitive exposure to 10 years from 30 years for this particular incident on that particular day. If they are successful, and there’s reason to believe they will be at least partly successful, they could reduce Manning’s maximum exposure from 136 years to something in the neighborhood of 100 years. It is likely however, that the court will not merge the Article 134 charges/specs with the other charges because Article 134 covers that conduct that is prejudicial to good order and discipline or that conduct that brings discredit upon the service. That is a uniquely military crime and will likely be treated as such, in accordance with recent developments in the military justice system. As always, mistakes or bad information from me is solely my responsibility and not the responsibility of people who have very graciously given of their time and expertise to me.
The Army has set up a FOIA reading room, where the public may peruse filings and rulings and other such here. Some organization has been creating transcripts by court reporters with the court’s permission and posting them on the web twice daily, but I can’t find the link for that.