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Jan 11 2013

Curious about Bradley Manning?

I did not know that one of our own, Zinnia Jones, had carried on a correspondence with Bradley Manning, but she did, and now she’s going to have to testify in the case against him. And now she’s doing a Reddit IAmA on Bradley Manning, so you can go ask her anything you want about the case.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    I take it that Zinnia is testifying in favour of Bradley – or is it not Breanna – Manning?

  2. 2
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Reddit – aren’t the folks here on FTB mostly kinda against Reddit?

    Not a user or fan of that blogplexy-thingummywhatsit myself.

  3. 3
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Jesus Christ Steve. Please be quiet.

  4. 4
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    The Reddit thread is full of wannabe lawyers shouting at the top of their lungs, and Zinnia’s answers have been downvoted into oblivion. What a mess.

  5. 5
    Minestuck

    I went there curious what her responses were, as I’ve been following ZJ for about two years know and I’ve known about these correspondences, but unfortunately the entire Reddit page is covered in “this is stupid” posts that have been upvoted and all of her responses have been downvoted and obscured.
    Sigh

  6. 6
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    I think that this is mostly my fault because I never ventured onto Reddit before. But I could not understand what was in front of me.

    What the fuck was that?

  7. 7
    The Mellow Monkey

    If you want to read Zinnia’s responses without wading through the monstrosity, you can find them all from her profile here.

  8. 8
    chigau (違う)

    ditto on What the fuck was that?
    How do people follow that shit?

  9. 9
    Inaji

    Josh:

    Jesus Christ Steve. Please be quiet.

    Josh, see Thunderdome. General consensus is, regarding StevoR, is to reply only on Thunderdome, rest of the time, Coventry.

    /derail

  10. 10
    DLC

    reddit is a sewer. Most of Zinnia’s critics have no business opining on legal matters, and seem to be exhibiting a stunning confirmation of Dunning-Kreuger effect.

  11. 11
    Sili

    I think that this is mostly my fault because I never ventured onto Reddit before. But I could not understand what was in front of me.

    Thank God! I thought it was just me.

  12. 12
    Crissa

    Geez, who would feminize someone’s name without permission? That’s really low, StevoR.

    If Manning wants to come out or transition, let him choose when and how.

  13. 13
    strange gods before me ॐ

    StevoR is trying to do right in this case. He didn’t feminize Manning’s name; he used the name he’d been told Manning was using.

    We have repeatedly been told Manning was identifying as Breanna. We know Manning told Lamo that execution or life in prison would be not be a big deal except for the likelihood this would entail forever being known to the public as a man.

    Zinnia thinks Manning is going by Bradley at this time, but Zinnia is not certain:

    I don’t intend to write it off either. I know there’s seriously significant evidence in favor of that, and I’m prepared to take it into account. I’ve had to do some thinking about it, too. I’m absolutely ready to use a different name and pronoun if he prefers – nothing is set in stone about this. I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I felt otherwise. It’s certainly not my place to be insistent about others’ identities.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/16dpvl/i_am_lauren_mcnamara_and_im_scheduled_to_testify/c7vis64?context=8

    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/16dpvl/i_am_lauren_mcnamara_and_im_scheduled_to_testify/c7vcyj7?context=3

    We have seen conflicting reports and we lack information. I would follow Zinnia’s lead only because she has paid more attention to the matter than I have, but this is not a case of anyone being an asshole.

  14. 14
    a3kr0n

    Reddit makes my eyes hurt.

  15. 15
    tsig

    Reddit looks like a free throw zone for feces hurling monkeys.

  16. 16
    Jackie

    I followed the link. I won’t be venturing into Reddit again without a hazmat suit and a can of Raid. Zinna is a hero. My awe and respect for her continues to grow.

  17. 17
    nakarti

    Why would you say such a terrible thing about Reddit, when clearly so many of its members are lawyers, and of course they are all telling the truth because you cannot lie on The Internet!

  18. 18
    strange gods before me ॐ

    If the heroic thing Zinnia is supposed to have done is navigating the reddit interface, well alright, I’d have to agree.

    Other than that, no.

    This AMA really is a bad idea. While a lot of the redditors’ notions of the law are silly (you’ll go to jail for this! and such),

    Zinnia’s actions here are objectionable because nothing good for the defense can result from this, but it does give the prosecution more information and thus more opportunities to get her to say something contradictory, or simply something casting Manning in a worse light, on the witness stand.

  19. 19
    The Mellow Monkey

    SG, yeah, I had the same thought. Without a gag order in place, most of those redditors’ warnings were flat out wrong, but there are good reasons why a witness shouldn’t do something like this before their testimony.

  20. 20
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    That Reddit thread is a disgrace — I’ve never seen an AMA where many redditors have acted en block to effectively silence the thread starter, as all of Zinnia’s comments are scored zero or negative and so extra effort has to be made to disclose them so that her answers can be read in context.

    As for your objection, sgbm, I agree it might be unwise for as simple a reason as that the prosecution intend to trash her reputation as a reasonable person on the witness stand, and thus to argue that all the people Bradley Manning reached out to contact on the Internet were or are untrustworthy people in some way – Zinnia, Adrian Lamo, or Julian Assange.

    However, none of the logs of Zinnia’s conversations with Manning are damning — unlike the conversations with Lamo and the Wikileaks contact (assumed to be Assange himself). My impression (though I certainly could be wrong) is that Zinnia’s role in testifying will be to demonstrate that Manning was in contact with various people over the Internet for a long period of time up until the point that he was arrested – her testimony will be to build up the chain of events in Manning’s Internet history as distinct from his daily life as a military intelligence analyst.

    Basically Zinnia’s been a public person with a YouTube channel for the last four or so years (amply transcripted), so I don’t see any real reason that the AMA is really that unwise — she’s written on her blog about Manning several times and if the prosecution wants to shred her on the stand there is ample, written source material available for them to do so besides Reddit.

  21. 21
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    en bloc, dammit…

  22. 22
    strange gods before me ॐ

    As for your objection, sgbm, I agree it might be unwise for as simple a reason as that the prosecution intend to trash her reputation as a reasonable person on the witness stand, and thus to argue that all the people Bradley Manning reached out to contact on the Internet were or are untrustworthy people in some way – Zinnia, Adrian Lamo, or Julian Assange.

    But that’s not my objection. They don’t need to make her sound unreasonable or untrustworthy. They only need to make her testimony seem unreliable, and they can do that by showing inconsistencies between her words on the stand and public statements beforehand, the opportunity for which increases every time she makes a public record about this. She even said “if you have any questions about [...] my expected testimony [...] ask away.”

    The options were clear and the correct choice was obvious. She could

    1) not do this, in which case nothing changes, a neutral outcome,

    or 2) do this AMA, which can be predicted to have a negative outcome for the defense or might have a neutral outcome, but has no foreseeable positive outcome for the defense.

    Given one option that is neutral, and another option which is either bad or neutral but not good, it is only rational to choose the known neutral option; there is no possible reward for the risk. And when it’s someone else’s life at stake, it’s not only rational but a moral imperative to not gamble with the other person’s life.

    However, none of the logs of Zinnia’s conversations with Manning are damning

    Those logs are tangential to the AMA, which is why I said nothing about them. The logs were always going to be part of the court record and thus accessible to the prosecution. This new commentary could not have been, until Zinnia created it.

    My impression (though I certainly could be wrong) is that Zinnia’s role in testifying

    Once cross-examination begins, her role in testifying will be whatever the prosecution can make it be.

    Basically Zinnia’s been a public person with a YouTube channel for the last four or so years (amply transcripted),

    This again assumes I said something about her reputation, which I did not. While reputation does matter, and it would be ideal if every witness for the defense could be a judge’s beloved grandmother, I don’t consider that to be a reasonable expectation. What is reasonable is to say that people who learn they’re going to be called as defense witnesses should not knowingly make a public record of statements about the case, let alone their expected testimony.

    she’s written on her blog about Manning several times and if the prosecution wants to shred her on the stand there is ample, written source material available for them to do so besides Reddit.

    Not about her expected testimony. But for the sake of argument, let’s grant that she’s already publicly said a lot of stuff which would help the prosecution. That is not an excuse to keep on doing it. When she learned that she would be testifying, that should have been a cue to turn off the spigot, since she should now be fully aware that the stakes are higher than she might previously have known.

    +++++
    I see several offhanded dismissals of the possibility that any of Zinnia’s critics are lawyers.

    RegD, whose comment is visible on the front page,

    She’s going to get nailed on cross-examination when she testifies based on anything/everything she says in this AMA. Anything said in the open can, and will, be used to test her competency as a witness.

    Lauren, I highly recommend you refrain from doing an AMA until after you testify.

    Edit #1– Source: I’m a lawyer.

    Edit #2– Why the downvotes? I am not wrong by any means. During law school I clerked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and one of my tasks was to dig up information on witnesses that prosecutors could use against them during cross-examination.

    I’m sure Lauren has great intentions in doing this AMA, but nothing she can say will actually benefit Private Manning–it will only hurt his case.

    is indeed a lawyer.

  23. 23
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Sorry for the things that I seemingly imputed to being your view. I don’t have a mind like a steel-trap to avoid making mistakes like that.

    Given that Zinnia has been ambivalent about Manning’s actions, and the usual tactic behind the prosecution trashing a witness on the stand is to destroy their credibility and that of the defendant by association, then I still don’t see that the AMA is giving the prosecution anything more to work with then what is already on the public record. Zinnia defended it like this (edited to remove the text she was responding to):

    Maybe this is where I’ve had sort of a miscommunication with everyone else. I don’t see this as being about whether I support Manning or not, what “side” I take, and all that. I might just be as ignorant as a box of rocks (plenty of people have said so in the rest of the thread!), but I don’t see how being called as a witness for the defense must mean I therefore support Manning, any more than the prosecution hypothetically calling me as a witness would mean I must therefore not support him.
    I explained my stance on his alleged actions earlier in the day, before the whole post started going seriously downhill. I don’t think his actions were entirely right or entirely wrong. I don’t agree with everything he did, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still agree with some of it. I also don’t wholly agree with how he was treated while in custody. What exactly does it mean, in terms of a bundle of beliefs I should endorse, to “support” him or not? This is unclear.
    As for my testimony, I assumed my role as a witness was to testify as to the relevant facts, and that was about it. I don’t anticipate that the actual prosecution and defense will expect me to take “sides”, as reddit apparently has. I was under the impression that this isn’t what witnesses are for. I thought they just want me there to report the facts about my interactions with Manning, and confirm what he said, didn’t say, and things like that. What they do with those facts, how they incorporate them into their arguments and counterarguments, would seem to be up to them.
    Basically, whoever I might “want” to win seems irrelevant to me. Wanting a certain state of affairs to be true doesn’t make it actually true. Wanting a case to be totally cut-and-dried, right or wrong, doesn’t make it so. I’ve always tried to adhere to the truth as I understand it – the truth about Manning’s alleged actions and their implications, whether those actions were justified or not, and so on. This is how I try to be honest with myself. The truth isn’t always pretty and it’s not always what we want it to be. If the facts of the matter about my interactions with Manning end up supporting the defense, then they will. If they end up supporting the prosecution, then they will. If they end up supporting both or neither or a mix of things, then they will.
    What I want is for whatever verdict is handed down to be well-reasoned, soundly argued, and fair, no matter what the verdict actually is. If it wasn’t, I would have a problem with that – no matter the verdict. That’s my interest in this. It doesn’t fall into “supporting” him or not.

    +++++

    Indeed, while I couldn’t help seeing a claim like RegD’s, it was also hard not to notice a whole lot of other people lined up right behind them to offer their opinion and simultaneously failed to invoke IANAL (also note the number of upvotes):

    legend500 956 points
    Yep, every lawyer on reddit facepalmed when they saw this AMA pop up.

    amandal0514 1184 points
    Not just lawyers. I’m just a regular person and I was like “wtf is she thinking??”

    danrobson1 763 points
    I work in a supermarket, I am aware this is a bad idea.

    prematurepost 429 points
    Unemployed quadriplegic here; also aware this is rather stupid.

    iHoardDownvotes 294 points
    Dead person here. I am also aware this is stupid.

    pistonpants 325 points
    Single cell Amoeba here, No hands or face to facepalm. But totally a bad idea.

    Schit4brainz 165 points
    Electron here and can confirm this is not positive.

    … and so on

    I don’t wish to doubt the presence of lawyers on Reddit, though I really must wonder how many of them have practising experience of an ad hoc tribunal like a court-martial as opposed to the more normative jury trial environment — I would have thought that court-martials of this magnitude are far less common occurences and the sorts of cheap tricks that lawyers can play to influence a jury are going to get far less latitude in a court-martial.

  24. 24
    strange gods before me ॐ

    That reddit thread is a disgrace because several people used sexist slurs against Jones. I have no opinion or interest in whether websites should offer upvoting/downvoting, nor whether users should click on widgets made available to them.

    Given that Zinnia has been ambivalent about Manning’s actions, and the usual tactic behind the prosecution trashing a witness on the stand is to destroy their credibility and that of the defendant by association,

    Not just by association. Also by showing inconsistencies between earlier records and testimony on the stand. For example, here is a guide for military lawyers on impeaching victims’ and witnesses’ credibility based on prior inconsistent statements.

    Also — and the following isn’t exclusively a tactic of impeaching the witness, but may also be used — the prosecution may try to get the witness to make statements which are at odds with the defense’s strategy. This is made easier if the witness has made such statements publicly:

    then I still don’t see that the AMA is giving the prosecution anything more to work with then what is already on the public record.

    Here is a statement from Jones which calls into question a possible defense narrative. While I am sympathetic to her evident care for how Manning is portrayed in the media, what I want most is for Manning’s legal defense to be as effective as possible.

    Has Jones made more or less that statement publicly before? If so, had she made it recently? If she is cross-examined about this viewpoint of hers, it can only negatively impact Manning’s defense.

    Zinnia defended it like this

    Right, she says she’s more interested in making information available to the public than in supporting Manning’s defense per se. Many of us who want to see as light a sentence as possible, and/or agree with what Manning did, of course are going to find that whole approach objectionable. She doesn’t agree with everything Manning did? She should. She’s wrong not to. Manning is a hero. Jones is evidently unconcerned with how her actions may help the prosecution? The prosecution is not a team of well-meaning skeptics on a factfinding mission; their job is to ruin Manning’s life.

    Indeed, while I couldn’t help seeing a claim like RegD’s

    The claim is substantiated. And there is no contrary evidence to call it into question.

    it was also hard not to notice a whole lot of other people lined up right behind them to offer their opinion

    Of course, but before I commented on the matter, I only saw commenters here doubting the presence of lawyers, not saying some are and some aren’t.

    and simultaneously failed to invoke IANAL

    “I’m just a regular person” and “I work in a supermarket” and so on seem to clearly imply NAL.

    I really must wonder how many of them have practising experience of an ad hoc tribunal like a court-martial as opposed to the more normative jury trial environment

    Maybe none of them. But then it’s like having any other dataset which isn’t ideal. Some data is better than no data, so use the data available. Some lawyers are better than no lawyers. Is Jones a lawyer? Did she consult any lawyers before doing this AMA? It isn’t rational to ignore the available data simply because it doesn’t meet some ideal.

    I would have thought that court-martials of this magnitude are far less common occurences

    They are. But:

    and the sorts of cheap tricks that lawyers can play to influence a jury are going to get far less latitude in a court-martial.

    Can you cite any reason to think this? Does the aforementioned guide for military lawyers on impeaching witnesses’ credibility cause you to figure differently?

  25. 25
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    People say that Zinnia Jones may be endangering Manning’s defense and her answer is “I don’t care about his defense, I’m just going to tell the truth”.
    I wouldn’t expect her to lie anyway, but not going out of her way to help the prosecution would be nice.

    This is just…. WTF?!

  26. 26
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Being able to draw on the knowledge of lawyers with experience of the interrogation of civilian witnesses under the terms of the US’ Military Rules of Evidence would be far more valuable to be able to conduct this discussion, so in the absence of them, I will cede the point. As I am not Zinnia, I cannot answer the questions related to what legal advice she has been given; it seems obvious from her personal educational history that she herself cannot be a lawyer.

    The Manual for Court-Martials is clear that the credibility of witnesses can be attacked or supported in various ways, but the presiding military judge (who leads the tribunal) is also responsible for avoiding the wasting of time and protecting witnesses “from harassment or undue embarrassment” or from having to answer degrading questions. Drawing in extraneous statements to catch a witness in lying with respect to the evidence before the court (which would be the 12 chat logs from 2009) may or may not be permitted, but in that case any of her statements on public record could potentially be used to do that because she has given her opinion related to her chats with Manning many times over before now.

    Lastly, as an observation: her grilling from a variety of different angles on Reddit showed considerable consistency under pressure, so if the cross-examination she is to receive proves to be somewhat harsher, then she will have benefitted from the practice; if it turns out to be easier, then she should have no general worries about appearing truthful before the tribunal, which is the chief way in which her testimony can assist Manning.

  27. 27
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Lastly, as an observation: her grilling from a variety of different angles on Reddit showed considerable consistency under pressure, so if the cross-examination she is to receive proves to be somewhat harsher, then she will have benefitted from the practice; if it turns out to be easier, then she should have no general worries about appearing truthful before the tribunal, which is the chief way in which her testimony can assist Manning.

    For a “bright side”, this sucks.

  28. 28
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    After reading more of Zinnia’s responses, I’m torn. Stupid or callous?

    This is a case of historical interest. It’s been in the news for a while, and people probably want to know what exactly is going on. I think they could benefit from the perspective of someone who’s a bit closer to the events in question, just like all sorts of AMAs are from people who are involved in interesting things that people want to know more about.

    Seriously?

    Hey, you know who could have benefited from you shutting the fuck up until after your testimony? Bradley Manning.
    Maybe things would play out the same either way, but why the hell risk it?! This is somebody’s life we’re talking about. Public’s curiosity could be satisfied just the same later.

    (This has made me really ragey)

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