WASHINGTON - January 12 - Military officers orchestrating proceedings against PFC Bradley Manning have referred all charges that were considered during last month's Article 32 proceedings to a general court martial. Investigating officer Lt. Col. Paul Almanza rejected a request from lead defense counsel David Coombs to consolidate the 22 charges into three charges, expressing concerns that the military is over-charging PFC Manning.
"We're disappointed but by no means surprised," said Jeff Paterson, a lead organizer for the Bradley Manning Support Network. "The investigating officer showed no concern for the conflict of interest caused by his dual employment with the Justice Department, or the taint of bias arising from his commander-in-chief, President Obama, who publicly declared Manning to be guilty long before he ever had his day in court."
Lt. Col. Paul Alamanza, the investigating officer who referred the charges to court martial, refused to recuse himself on the grounds that his employer -- the Justice Department -- is pursuing a separate investigation into WikiLeaks. He was also criticized for allowing all of the military's witnesses and evidence to be presented, while prohibiting all but two of the defense's witnesses from testifying, as well as evidence that could exonerate the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower.
The recommendations, which now go before the Special Court Martial Convening Authority, include the most serious charge of "aiding the enemy." Legal observers who followed the Article 32 proceedings noted that military prosecutors never provided evidence of how these materials supposedly harmed national security.
"These charges contradict the administration's own impact assessments which showed that these WikiLeaks revelations posed no threat to our national security" said Kevin Zeese, a legal adviser to the Bradley Manning Support Network. "But since the Obama administration appears dead set on railroading Bradley Manning through their show trial, we can't expect them to allow such critical evidence or testimony to be considered. This evidence could have shown that these materials were improperly classified."
The new convening authority is expected to make a final recommendation on these charges with about a week, with the court martial anticipated to resume in three to five months.
Hundreds of supporters marched and demonstrated in support of Bradley Manning outside the Article 32 proceedings at Fort Meade last month. Organizers say that the Obama administration can expect even larger numbers at the court martial.