US Command ‘Clinton, Gates too expensive to produce’ for Manning court-martial

Col. Carl Coffman

Col. Carl Coffman

Manning's defense lawyer, David Coombs reports that Colonel Carl R. Coffman Jr., the Commander of Joint Base Myer and the Special Court Martial Convening Authority, denied the defense's request to conduct oral depositions of nine essential witnesses including former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Coffman determined that the "difficulty, expense, and/or effect on military operations outweighed the significance of the expected testimony," despite the possibility of the death penalty for Manning.

These same witnesses were requested by the defense for Manning's Article 32 Pretrial Hearing, and were denied by Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, a civilian career prosecutor at the Department of Justice. Almanza deemed that the "significance [of their testimony] does not outweigh military and governmental operations," and the witnesss were "not reasonably available given the importance of their respective position."

David Coombs responded to Coffman's denial on his blog yesterday. Coffman's decision, he said, "is yet another example of the government improperly impeding the defense's access to essential witnesses."

Coombs had responded to the Almanza's earlier denial of current and former government witnesses stating, the "government seems to argue that in matters of justice, if you have too important of a position, you should not be bothered."

Coombs had also requested to orally depose the original classification authorities for the alleged leaks, but was denied by Almanza. Coomb's reason for requesting their appearance or deposition was the original classificatin authorities had made unsworn statements, and "unsworn statements under 28 U.S.C. 1746 cannot be considered by the Investigating Officer."

In order for an unsworn statement provided under 28 U.S.C. 1746 to be admissible, it must be subscribed and signed "in a judicial proceeding or course of justice" in order to subject the declarant to the penalty of perjury at the Article 32 hearing.

Further each of the current and former government officials requested as witnesses, including President Barack Obama, had "provided statements that contradict those govern by the OCA witnesses...regarding the alleged damage caused by the unauthorized disclosures":

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

Coomb's had also requested Barack Obama's testimony for Manning's Article 32 Pretrial Hearing, for the same reasons, and because Obama, as Commander and Chief, had declared that Manning had "broke the law," which constitutes "unlawful command influence":

"XXXXXXXXXX [PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA] The defense requests the presence of XXXXXXXXXX [PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA] in order to discuss the issue of Unlawful Command Influence (UCI). Under Rule for Courts-Martial 405(e), the defense is entitled to explore the issue of UCI. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a superior officer in the chain of command is prohibited from saying or doing anything that could influence any decision by a subordinate in how to handle a military justice matter. As the XXXXXXXXXX [PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA] made improper comments on 21 April 2011, when he decided to comment on PFC Manning and his case. On that date, he responded to questions regarding PFC Manning's alleged actions by concluding that "'We're a nation of laws. We don't let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He [PFC Manning] broke the law." The comments by XXXXXXXXXX [PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA] are UCI. The defense intends to question XXXXXXXXXX [PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA] on the nature of his discussions with members of the military regarding this case and whether he has made any other statements that would either influence the prosecution of this case or PFC Manning's right to obtain a fair trial..."

VIDEO OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA DECLARING MANNING GULTY BEFORE TRIAL

Coffman will make a recommendation to the general convening authority, Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington [*pictured with President Obama below], commander of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, who will make the final decision about L. Paul Almanza's recommendation that Manning face all the charges set forth and be referred to a general court martial.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Two of the nine requested by defense to be orally deposed "include, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates:

"c. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXX [FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES] will testify that the Afghanistan and Iraq SIGACT release did not reveal any sensitive intelligence sources or methods. He will also testify that the Department of Defense could not point to anyone in Afghanistan or Iraq who was harmed due to the documents released by WikiLeaks. He will testify that the Afghanistan and Iraq SIGACTs are simply ground-level field reports that document dated activities which do not disclose sensitive information or our sources and methods. XXXXXXXXXX [FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES] will also testify that the initial public descriptions of the harm to foreign policy due to the publication of diplomatic cables were "Fairly significantly overwrought." He will also testify that on 29 July 2010, he directed the Defense Intelligence Agency )DIA) to lead a comprehensive review of the documents allegedly govern to WikiLeaks and to coordinate under the Information Review Task Force (IDTF, formerly TF 725) to conduct a complete damage review. He will testify that the damage review confirmed that the alleged leaks represent a low to, at best moderate risk to national security. Specifically, he will testify that all the information allegedly leaked was ether dated, represented low-level opinions, or was already commonly understood and known due to previous public disclosures. The requested deposition is needed due to the Article 32 Investigating Officer's improper determination that XXXXXXXXXX [FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES] was not reasonably available at the Article 32 hearing. XXXXXXXXXX [FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES] was an essential witness and should have been produced in person at the Article 32 hearing."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

d. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXX [SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON] will testify that she has raised the issue of disclosure of diplomatic cables with foreign leaders "in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing." [SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON] will also testify that she has not had any concerns expressed to her about whether any nation would continue to work with the United States or would continue to discuss important matters going forward due to the alleged leaks. As such, XXXXXXXXXX [SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON] will testify that although the leaks were embarrassing for the administration, she concurs with XXXXXXXXXX opinion that they did not represent significant consequences to foreign policy. The requested deposition is needed due to the Article 32 Investigating Officer's improper determination that XXXXXXXXXX [SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON] was not reasonably available at the Article 32 hearing. XXXXXXXXXX [SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON] was an essential witness and should have been produced in person at the Article 32 hearing."

Alexa O'Brien Alexa O'Brien researches and writes about national security and law enforcement. Her work has been published in The New York Times, VICE News, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Guardian (UK), The Daily Beast, NY Daily News, and featured on the BBC, PBS, NPR, Democracy Now!, and Public Radio International. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in the United Kingdom and listed in The Verge 50. In 2016, she worked at The Constitution Project in Washington, D.C. as a staff researcher and writer on an independent commission studying Oklahoma's death penalty. She also provided research support to scholars of the first cost study conducted on that state's capital punishment system.