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Military Officials Formally Refer Bradley Manning Case to Court-Martial
Officials continue to deny defense access to key witnesses
WASHINGTON - February 3 - Military officials today formally referred all charges against PFC Bradley Manning to a full court martial. Today's announcement by the General Court-Martial Convening Authority, Major General Michael S. Linnington, endorses the recommendations made last month by Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, who presided over the Article 32 hearing in December. Supporters of the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower have condemned these proceedings as fundamentally unjust.
"This administration owes all Americans an honest explanation for their extraordinary retaliation against Bradley Manning," said Jeff Paterson, a lead organizer of the Bradley Manning Support Network. "President Obama and Secretary Clinton need to produce sworn depositions under conditions where they are required to tell the truth about Bradley Manning."
Legal observers have noted that President Obama and Secretary Clinton have already inserted themselves into the case by declaring Manning to be guilty and making unsubstantiated accusations that the WikiLeaks materials somehow harmed national security. Manning's defense team has argued that these claims contradict the government's own impact assessments, which military prosecutors have blocked from consideration during the proceedings. On Janurary 20, Manning's lead defense counsel David Coombs filed another request for the "WikiLeaks Task Force" and other entities to produce these records.
On January 18, Col. Carl R. Coffman Jr. denied a separate request filed a week earlier by Manning's defense team to conduct oral depositions of nine essential witnesses. Although names have been redacted from publicly available versions of these deposition requests, media analyses have shown that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are among those being called to testify.
"This determination is difficult to comprehend given the nature of the charges against PFC Manning. Today's decision is yet another example of the government improperly impeding the defense's access to essential witnesses," according to a blog post by Coombs in response to that denial of evidence.
Although this set of witnesses was prevented by military officials from testifying during last month's Article 32 hearing, and again with this most recent decision, Manning's defense team intends to renew these deposition requests with the General Court-Martial Convening Authority.
The decision by Maj. Gen. Linnington comes as his office was barraged with several days of calls after the Bradley Manning Support Network tweeted his phone number. Supporters had called on Linnington to at least drop the most serious charge of "aiding the enemy."