Gitmo Briefs Likened to Baseball Cards

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – Prosecutors tried Tuesday to undermine testimony from a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay who compared the detainee assessment briefs Pfc. Bradley Manning shared with WikiLeaks to “baseball cards.”
     Published as the “Guantanamo Files,” the nearly 800 briefs are just a sliver of the 700,000 files Manning uploaded to WikiLeaks in the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
     Prosecutors charged Manning with the release of five detainee assessment briefs, or DABs, marked “Secret,” meant to denote the potential for serious harm to national security.
     But Col. Morris Davis, who served as the prison’s third prosecutor from 2005 to 2007, doubted that any suspected terrorist would find the documents useful.
     “Other than causing embarrassment to the country that it was released, I don’t see the enemy could have gained any benefit,” he said. “If they’re trying to achieve some sort of strategic or tactical advantage, the detainee assessment brief is not the place to get it.”
     To prepare for his testimony as a defense witness, Davis highlighted passages from these five briefs that he believed had been reported by the press or disclosed by the federal government.
     He said that he consulted the redacted transcripts of Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs), hearings that the government holds to revisit “enemy combatant” designations; the findings of the Administrative Review Board (ARBs), which determines whether a prisoner presents a threat; “The Guantanamo Files,” a book by investigative journalist Andy Worthington; and the film, “The Road to Guantanamo.”
     While the military has not publicly disclosed the identities of prisoners associated with the charged briefs, Morris noted that three of these men were released before he became prosecutor in August 2005.
     Another became the subject of a Supreme Court case, Davis said.
     One Guantanamo case the Supreme Court considered, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, allowed Yaser Esam Hamdi to challenge the “enemy combatant” designation. Another, Boumediene v. Bush, found that detainees like Lakhdar Boumediene had habeas corpus rights.
     In a prepared statement months before trial, Manning said he “did not think much of” the DABs initially, but that he gave them another look to examine the “moral efficacy of our actions surrounding JTF-GTMO.” (Joint Task Force Guantanamo.)
     Davis said his predecessors did not think much about the DABs, either.
     Even before his tenure, prosecutors thought of the briefs as “baseball cards” because they contained broad summaries of basic information, he said.
     One of the prosecutors, Capt. Joe Morrow, parsed that analogy on cross-examination.
     “You’ve seen baseball cards in your youth,” Morrow said.
     Davis replied, “I wish I would have kept them.”
     Like baseball cards, the detainee assessment briefs contain a prisoner’s date of birth and names. Davis then pointed out that the DABs also listed the men’s aliases, which he acknowledged may include nonpublic information.
     Morrow proposed that their suspected terrorist affiliations are “sort of like their teammates.”
     “Do baseball cards have the teammates?” he asked.
     Agreeing they did not, Davis added: “I didn’t coin the term ‘baseball cards.'”
     He called it a “flippant shorthand,” upon further questioning by Manning’s lead attorney David Coombs. Many of the DABs are “wildly inaccurate” or contain conflicting accounts, Davis said.
     Morrow attributed this to the fact that multiple federal agencies could be questioning a detainee.
     Coombs argued meanwhile that it may have more to do with the legacy of torture at Guantanamo.
     “Was it always a polite, nice conversation?” he asked, referring to detainee interrogation.
     “No,” Davis replied. “It was, in their view, harsh.”
     
     Battlefield Reports & Cables Also Open-Source, Witnesses Say
     A security expert from the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) said that he could find more than 60 percent of battlefield incidents that Manning is charged with disclosing through official channels.
     Cassius Hall, who testified as a defense expert on Tuesday afternoon, is in charge of declassifying information for INSCOM, primarily for processing Freedom of Information Act requests.
     Manning’s lawyers asked him to review 102 of “significant action” reports, or SigActs, that Manning is charged with releasing. He said that he could find 62 of the incidents reported in the public domain.
     Prosecutors say that, even when an individual report is not sensitive, Manning’s release of hundreds of thousands of them could have put troops at risk because enemies could have analyzed them to detect patterns and weaknesses.
     One type of analysis involved creating a SITMAP, or “situation map.”
     Hall said this is more complex than simply plotting points on a location.
     Coombs elicited this point to suggest that terrorists would not have the savvy to perform this analysis. A senior intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army typically creates a SITMAP for interpretation by a commander.
     Under cross-examination from the lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, Hall testified, however, that a junior analyst could also learn how to do this.
     Hall agreed that “our adversaries” use the same process.
     “And by terrorists?” Fein asked.
     Hall agreed that they do.
     Coombs countered that terror groups do not need a database to get a long-term perspective on troop movements. He demonstrated this point by noting that the location of Camp Victory in Iraq was not a secret.
     The next witness, Charles Ganiel, was a security specialist assigned to the defense team, who was tasked with assessing whether many of the diplomatic cables Manning is charged with leaking report information that is publicly available.
     Manning released more than 250,000 that WikiLeaks published under the name “Cablegate.” Prosecutors charged him for the release of 125 of these documents.
     All but two contained information that could be found in news reports, Ganiel said.
     Prosecutors have repeatedly attempted to discredit defense witnesses by pointing out they are not “original classification authorities,” or OCAs, tasked with making determinations about the level of secrecy a document should have.
     The defense wanted to argue that the overclassification of government data has been known to be a pervasive problem since the leak of the Pentagon Papers, more than 40 years ago. But the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, has restrained them from making that argument because she ruled it irrelevant to the case.
     Manning’s attorneys can make that argument, however, at sentencing.
     Both Hall and Ganiel said that their professional positions do not allow them to second-guess an OCA’s determinations.
     “I can’t disagree with what they say and how they mark it,” Ganiel said.
     Earlier that day, Hall acknowledged candidly, “You may disagree with [an OCA] behind closed doors.”

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