Bradley Manning: 1,000 days in detention and secrecy still reigns
2013-02-27 0:00

By Ed Pilkington | RawStory

The WikiLeaks suspectís prosecution has been conducted with a complete absence of transparency Ė with worrying implications for free speech

On Saturday Bradley Manning will mark his 1,000th day imprisoned without trial. In the course of those thousand days, from the moment he was formally put into pre-trial confinement on 19 May 2010 on suspicion of being the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures, Manning has been on a long and eventful journey.

It has taken him from the desert of Iraq, where he was arrested at a military operating base outside Baghdad, to a prison tent in Kuwait. From there he endured his infamous harsh treatment at Quantico Marine base in Virginia, and for the last 14 months he has attended a series of pre-trial hearings at Fort Meade in Maryland, the latest of which begins next week.

For the small band of reporters who have tracked the prosecution of Private First Class Manning, the journey has also been long and eventful. Not in any way comparable, of course; none of us have been ordered to strip naked or put in shackles, and we have all been free to go home at night without the prospect of a life sentence hanging over us.

But itís been an education, nonetheless. Though we are a mixed bag Ė a fusion of traditional outlets such as the Washington Post and Associated Press and new-look bloggers such as Firedoglake and the Bradley Manning support network Ė we have been thrown together by our common mission to report on the most high-profile prosecution of an alleged leaker in several decades.

Thereís something else that binds us Ė disparate though our reporting styles and personal politics might be Ė and thatís the daily struggle to do our jobs properly, confronted as we are by the systemic furtiveness of the US government. Itís an irony that appears to be lost on many of the military lawyers who fill the courtroom at Fort Meade. A trial that has at its core the age-old confrontation between a governmentís desire for confidentiality and the publicís need to know, is itself being conducted amid stringent restrictions on information.

None of the transcripts of the court martial procedure have been released to us. No government motions to the court have been published. David Coombs, Manningís lead lawyer, has had to plead to be allowed to post his defence motions, and when he has been granted permission he has often been forced to redact the documents to an almost comical degree.

The most egregious example of this over the past 1,000 days was the moment in January when the military judge, Colonel Denise Lind, issued her ruling in an Article 13 motion brought by Manningís defence. This was the complaint that the soldier, while at Quantico, had been subjected to a form of pre-trial punishment that is banned under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

It was an important moment in the narrative arc that is the Bradley Manning trial. Technically, Lind had the power to dismiss all charges against the soldier; she could have, though none of us expected that she would, let him walk out of that court and into freedom. (In the end she knocked 112 days off any eventual sentence).


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