Last Sunday marked the 1,000th day Pfc. Bradley Manning had spent in military custody without trial. In an argument brought in front of a pretrial hearing in Fort Meade Monday, Manning’s defense attempted to see the soldier’s charges dropped on the grounds that his lengthy pretrial detention violated his constitutional rights. However, Judge Colonel Denise Lind ruled that Manning’s detention period has been “reasonable.”
As the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington reported from the courtroom, Lind concluded “that the exceptional length of the case was almost entirely justified as a result of its uniquely complex and sensitive nature.” Firedoglake’s Kevin Gozstola, also reporting from the trial, called the judge’s ruling (which she took nearly two hours to read) “a mind-numbing list of dates and government agency alphabet soup” — minutiae as proof of the need to lock up the accused whistleblower for over two and a half years without trial.
Under the Rules of Court Martial 707, any member of the military who is prosecuted must be brought to trial – as measured by the date of his or her arraignment – within a “speedy trial clock” of 120 days of being detained. But there are grounds for excusable delays that set back the clock that include the need for counsel to prepare for trial in a complex case, an inquiry into the mental condition of the accused, and the time taken to obtain security clearance for classified information.
In Manning’s case, the defence and prosecution agreed that there had been 84 days of diligent work between the soldier’s arrest and his arraignment on 23 February 2012. But the two sides were in dispute over 330 days.
In her ruling, Lind found that only six of those 330 days had been improperly excluded form the speedy trial clock – in other words, almost all the delays had been justified.
The speedy trial motion was on of the defense’s last pushes to see Manning’s charges dismissed. Now it has been struck down, the soldier is nearly certain to go to full trial in June.
Monday saw a couple of other major developments in the case:
The prosecution revealed that they will call possibly one of the 22 Navy Seals involved in the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, to give evidence at Manning’s trial. The witness would, according to Pilkington, “testify how he entered a room in the al-Qaida leader’s hideout in Pakistan, grabbed three items of digital media and removed it. Later, four separate files of information were off-loaded with WikiLeaks contents on them.”
Such testimony would serve as potential supporting evidence for the “aiding the enemy” charge the government seeks to bring against Manning. However, Manning’s defense rejected to supposition that such evidence would serve an “aiding the enemy” charge — what mattered, Manning’s attorney David Coombs argued, was Manning’s knowledge when contacting WikiLeaks, not what later became of the leaked material.
In other major news, Manning will read from his proposed plea on Thursday. The soldier will read parts of a prepared 35-page statement on why he is guilty of a number of lesser charges brought against him. He is expected to discuss in part his decision to provide information to Wikileaks.