Mid-day Open Thread

The Manning Court-Martial is currently ongoing.

The SCOTUS has denied certoriari in Behenna v US.  You can read the CAAF ruling in US v Behenna here.

SSG Robert Bales has plead guilty to all charges, save one charge of Obstruction of Justice in the murder of 16 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children in their sleep.  He is currently undergoing a Care inquiry (a providence hearing) to ensure that his pleas are full, knowing, and intentional, in order to satisfy UCMJ requirements and by so doing foreclose most avenues of appeal.

The weather here in OK has been very rainy. Three years worth of drought has essentially been (temporarily, at least) wiped away in two weeks.  While climate scientists are mostly hesitant to say that global climate change has contributed to our recent weather woes, primarily because they haven’t really studied the interaction of GCC and tornado creation, it seems to me that there may be something to the theory, when we had two EF5 storms within a 20-mile area within a two week period.

Movie Night: “We Steal Secrets”

Comments now enabled — FYWP!

The new review at Mother Jones reminded me I’m looking forward to seeing this, once it goes “on demand”. NYMag‘s movie reviewer, David Edelstein:

Before I saw Alex Gibney’s documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, I figured Gibney would be kicking the same government hornet’s nest already inflamed by his protagonist, Julian Assange—or some other nest, there being so many hornets and soul-sucking ghouls and dark subterranean forces in this and the last presidential administration that we’re practically living in Harry Potter World. But Gibney ended up following his story into other, even weirder areas. He comes to view the whistle-blowers, the cyberguerrillas in the war against all forms of secrecy, from a sort of psycho-anthropological perspective: Here, he says, is how the culture created them. And here’s how it destroys them. By the time this twisty, probing, altogether enthralling movie hits its final notes, the crimes against the Constitution and humanity have been upstaged by personal demons. Which is our woe as well….

Do you know all this? Much of the material is out there, but Gibney has a talent for creating a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to experience the full scope of this ugly, scary story. It’s not just Assange’s colleagues who talk. A few ex-CIA and Defense Department officials appear surprisingly sympathetic to the abstract idea that there are too many secrets. But what to do about that? We Steal Secrets is a documentary with the overflowing texture of fiction. It’s The Hacker’s Tragedy.

Foreign Policy‘s Joshua Keating, last week:

Gibney, an Academy Award-winning director who has previously turned his critical camera on the U.S. detention policy in Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron in The Smartest Guys in the Room, and the Catholic Church in Mea Maxima Culpa clearly has little sympathy for the institutions targeted by WikiLeaks or their claims for the right to confidentiality, but the film also makes a convincing case that the hubris and paranoia of Assange has done irreparable harm to the cause of transparency, echoing an argument made by many former WikiLeaks collaborators.

A few days ago, I had the chance to speak with Gibney by phone. An edited transcript…:

How did your opinion about WikiLeaks change during the making of this film?

I certainly changed my opinion of Assange, and I just my thinking about what was important about this mechanism, this electronic dropbox, which I thought was so important. I now think the publishing mechanism of WikiLeaks is what’s terribly important. My mind also changed about Bradley Manning.

But in terms of the larger issues about transparency and classification, not so much. Read more

Busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest

The house is nearing completion, the work is going like gangbusters with an IG inspection looming, I’m applying for a couple of higher positions, one of which would be virtualized and work at home about 75% of the time, Mother’s Day and the son’s birthday are looming, the son is graduating from high school in about two weeks, and the daughter is getting ready to go to Europe to spend summer with her Aunt who lives there.   Between all of those expenses, I expect to feast on Ramen a lot in the next six weeks.

I haven’t been posting much so here’s a quick round up of things that interest me.  The Manning case is going to have a closed door hearing (requested by the Defense) tomorrow to work out details of exhibiting classified information during the trial.  The Trial Counsel objected to the motion for the hearing to be closed, but the Judge agreed with Defense Counsel and overruled.

The SCOTUS will hold a conference some time this month I believe in petition for certoriari in Behenna v U.S.  1LT Michael Behenna stands convicted at General Court-Martial of unpremeditated murder, among other charges in the death of a detainee.  The opinion of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) is here.  (PDF) It also has a brief backgrounder on the case as it was presented to CAAF.  Since CAAF reviewed the case, the SCOTUS has appellate jurisdiction.  The issue is: Whether a servicemember in a combat zone categorically forfeits the right to self-­defense as a matter of law by pointing a firearm without authorization at a suspected enemy. (When such enemy was naked, unarmed, and cornered, and the servicemember in question went off-mission to torture and threaten the suspected enemy who had already been cleared by Military Intelligence, and later attempted to convince his subordinate to lie to their superiors.) Italics mine.

Charles Johnson over at LGF highlights the true motivation for the ongoing Benghazi silliness–the probability that the most popular Democratic politician in the country will run for President in 2016.

And in the “words fail even me” department, the USAF Officer in charge of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office for that service has been arrested for Sexual Battery.

Manning Update and Open Thread

There was a hearing last week in the pending Court-Martial of PFC Bradley Manning.  I was going to write it up, but then…well.

There were two developments that were interesting.  The main take-aways from the hearing are that Judge Lind (COL, JA) has instructed the Trial Counsel that they will have to prove that PFC Manning “knowingly and with specific intent that the Taliban and/or Al Quaeda receive the documents” he stole and passed to Wikileaks in order to get a conviction on the specification of Aiding the Enemy (UCMJ Art. 104) and not merely that he knew or should have known that Taliban or AQ would avail themselves of the documents after Wikileaks presumably posted them.  This is a higher standard than the TC originally proposed, but TC did not object to this instruction.  The second development from the hearing was that Trial Counsel sought and received permission from the Judge to call a member of SEAL Team 6 who took part in the Bin Laden compound raid to testify for the government during the findings phase (when guilt or non-guilt is determined.)

Presumably, he will testify that documents that originated with Manning’s activities were found in the compound.  I’m not sure what that accomplishes given the ruling above, but that’s what happened in the hearing.  IANAL, so your guess is as good as mine.

Additionally, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), the highest military appeals court, above the service courts but below the SCOTUS, has ruled in Center for Constitutional Rights, et al v US and Lind.  This suit concerns a writ of Mandamus that CCR, Wikileaks, Jeremy Scahill, and others were seeking to compel Judge Lind and the US to provide daily trial transcripts and verbatim transcripts of MRE 802 conferences.  MRE 802 concerns conferences that are taken in judicial chambers or sidebars.  The appellants sought to compel the government and the Judge to provide these records as well as reserve seats in the gallery to their representatives.  The Army Court of Criminal Appeals originally sided with the government and Judge Lind and turned down this writ on the grounds that Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests have served adequately in the past for news agencies and others seeking records of military courts-martial and there was no reason to change that now.  This policy/process differs significantly from federal civil courts, apparently.  There were also some grounds for turning down the request on military logistical grounds that are not really relevant but basically come down to who’s going to pay for the real time transcription and so on.  The accused (PFC Manning) and his counsel were invited by CAAF to submit a brief on this issue, but declined.  The CAAF found that since their jurisdiction was limited to appeals after ACCA would theoretically hear appeals, that did not give them enough jurisdiction to issue a writ in the case.  The majority specifically noted the fact that the accused did not join CCR, et al in the case and this weighed against them.

You can read their ruling here.

Also, NRA lobbying makes it a LOT harder to catch terrorists.  This is something of which the NRA is well aware.  UPDATE: Mistermix already beat me to it.

Game update 2.0, “Scum and Villainy” is out for Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I’ll be playing that tonight as soon as I get off shift babysitting server upgrades.

Open thread

PFC Manning Plea Hearing Today

PFC Manning has a hearing today at Fort Meade, MD.  He is set to plead “guilty by exceptions and substitutions” to at least some of the 22 charges currently pending against him.  He will plead not guilty to the charge of “Aiding the Enemy” which has been charged as a non-capital offense.”  The charges and specifications to which he is supposedly going to plead guilty will carry, collectively, up to 20 years confinement eligibility.  The “Aiding the Enemy” charge carries confinement of up to life with possibility of parole.

The Military Judge in this case is COL Denise Lind.  She is the same Judge who presided over the Court-Martial of birther doctor former-LTC Terry Lakin last year.

Manning has elected a “Judge-alone” trial, so there will be no members panel seated for this.  As part of the plea process, Judge Lind will conduct a Care inquiry, which is the military’s version of a providence inquiry to determine that Manning is knowingly, voluntarily pleading to all of the elements of the charges and specifications.  At some point during this process and before sentence is passed, he will be allowed to make an unsworn statement to the court that is not subject to cross-examination by the Trial Counsel.  This is unique to military jurisprudence as far as I know, but IANAL, so there.  I don’t know if I’d be making such a statement prior to trial on the remaining charge, however, because it will be useable by the Trial Counsel.

NPR is also covering the event.

While I was composing this, I received the following update from CNN:

Fort Meade, Maryland (CNN) — Pfc. Bradley Manning pleaded guilty Thursday to half of the 22 charges against him, but not the major one, in what the government says is the largest leak of classified documents in the nation’s history.

The Army intelligence analyst is accused of stealing thousands of classified documents while serving in Iraq. The material was then published online by WikiLeaks. The group, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information through its website, has never confirmed that Manning was the source of its information.

Army judge Col. Denise Lind asked Manning questions to establish that he understood what he was pleading guilty to.

In addition, she reminded him that his lawyer had filed a motion to have the case dismissed on the grounds that he was denied his right to a speedy trial — a motion that Lind denied Tuesday.

By entering guilty pleas, Manning loses his right to have an appellate court consider that ruling, if he chooses to appeal.

And now you know what I know.