JAMES GREEN: Could you start off by telling me about the work you`re doing right now on the Bradley Manning case?
ALEXA O`BRIEN: Sure. I've been researching and covering the Bradley Manning trial and the US investigations into WikiLeaks, Assange, Manning, and supporters. Manning's been in pre-trial confinement for over 900 days. I've been transcribing that trial by hand, and when the Military District of Washington (MDW) allows the press to actually use computers – which they haven`t lately – I type them. There is no public docket for the trial. It is being conducted in de facto secrecy. So, I am trying to get as much information out as a journalist so that legal scholars, the public, and other press can scale off of the work that I do. I've researched the U.S. investigations into Wikileaks, Manning, supporters and the press and that`s available at usvwikileaks.org.
And then there is more in-depth coverage and profiles I've built, including witness profiles and a reconstructed Appellate List available at http://www.alexaobrien.com/secondsight/archives.html. I've essentially built an appellate list – reconstructed it out of open court as well as the defense filings.
GREEN: Just for people who are not familiar with the legal jargon, what is that?
O`BRIEN: It`s basically the court docket. Normally in the United States you have trials where you have a public docket and public filings and rulings. The defense files a motion, the court rules on a motion and the Government files a motion and there is a back and forth. And there are exhibits that are filed into the court and it`s a public record. It`s a First Amendment right to have access to trials essentially. In this particular case there is no public docket. So when the court rules on something this judge will read it into the court record, but she reads it so quickly that you can`t gather the most important aspects of her ruling on the legal level, like what precedent or what case law is cited and such. This is important because this is the largest leak trial in American history, and it`s being covered by less than a handful of bloggers, myself included. It`s absolutely a disgrace.
GREEN: What is the justification given for it being done in such secrecy? Is this a military trial?
O`BRIEN: It is a military trial, but it doesn't matter. The constitution is the constitution. Look at the Guantanamo trials. The Government will publish transcripts for the biggest Guantanamo trials. We don`t have transcripts here.
GREEN: Where exactly are these trials taking place?
O`BRIEN: To give you a kind of high overview, US v. PFC Bradley Manning is being conducted at Fort Meade in Maryland on the base. Right now we`re in the motions and discovery phase still, two years in, so his trial has not actually started. It won`t start until at least February 2012, although the Government would like to push it to August of 2013. He`s essentially on trial for 22 charges. The broad view is that these charges relate to the “unauthorized disclosure of information to Wikileaks.” He`s been charged with aiding of the enemy, he`s been charged with the espionage act (18 USC 793), he`s been charged with unauthorized access (18 USC 1030), and while the prosecution says they will not seek the death penalty that`s really not the prosecution`s decision. It`s actually up to the General Convening Authority – Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commander of the Military District of Washington.
GREEN: What is the General Convening Authority?
O`BRIAN: Essentially it`s the individual who has the final say on and jurisdiction over the individual in the legal proceedings. And, since Pfc. Bradley Manning is in a general court martial, that jurisdiction comes from the General Convening Authority.
GREEN: So are there no other professional journalists in attendance at these proceedings?