An update on the Bradley Manning show trial:
The trial for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, has now been moved from September to November or January of next year. The judge moved the trial date because of “discovery issues” in the court martial. This was entirely predictable. All along, the military prosecutors and government have been engaged in a secrecy games that have made it nearly impossible for the defense to obtain evidence that could be material to the guilt or innocence of Manning or that could help reduce his sentence if he was convicted for his alleged leaks.
In effect, the military prosecutors have played a dual role. Not only have they been working to convict Bradley Manning, but they have also been acting as gatekeepers for the government so that information on how the government responded to the WikiLeaks disclosures and how the government has been investigating Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks is not handed over. The prosecutors have claimed they are protecting national security and blacked out full portions of documents that the defense requested.
The prosecutors initially claimed that an FBI law enforcement file was not relevant to the accused. It would not fulfill the defense’s request for material. Under a military rule for discovery of evidence, it found it was obligated to turn over at least some pages of the file so the defense could use some of it but most of the pages handed over are useless as they are pages of black ink. The file contains details on how a law enforcement agency has investigated Manning, the accused. As Judge Denise Lind asked in the case on Wednesday, how is that not relevant? And how is Manning going to make “particularized assertions when he doesn’t know what’s in the file”?
The prosecutors then made an argument that sounded much like the argument government lawyers have made when invoking state secrets privilege in civilian courts. Major Ashden Fein of the prosecution said the defense would have to at least make an assertion and that information was protected by national security. They said if the judge was going to order evidence be turned over then the prosecution would file under a rule that grants the government the privilege to redact what must be withheld in order to safeguard classified or sensitive information. The judge asked, “How can the defense assert anything if the page is black?” Fein replied, “Well, that is what they have to do”.