Defense Scores Partial Victory in WikiLeaks Pretrial
Lawyers for WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning scored a partial victory Wednesday when a judge ruled his defense team should be given access to government documents on the scandal.
Manning, 24, is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of military logs from Iraq and Afghanistan — as well as US diplomatic cables on a wide range of issues — to whistleblower WikiLeaks while serving as a low-ranking intelligence analyst.
He could be jailed for life if convicted of “aiding the enemy,” one of 22 criminal charges that judge Colonel Denise Lind let stand at pre-trial hearings in April at Fort Meade, a military base north of Washington.
On the first day of a further round of hearings that began Wednesday, Lind ordered that a report by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency evaluating the consequences of Manning’s alleged actions, be turned over to Manning’s lawyers.
The decision came after David Coombs, one of the lawyers, complained that US government agencies were dragging their feet in providing documents he and his colleagues had requested to build their case.
“They have an obligation,” Coombs said. “At this point we received less than half of the 63 documents.”
The 28 that had so far been made available suggested there was minimal fallout from Manning’s alleged leaks, he added.
“They basically say there’s no damage, no impact,” Coombs said.
Military prosecutor Ashden Fein, acknowledged that of the more than 40,000 pages prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the leaks, a mere 8,741 had been provided to the defense.
Meanwhile, a Central Intelligence Agency document was under revision, Fein added.
The baby-faced Manning, who was formally charged in February and looked frail Wednesday, faces trial on September 21. He has yet to enter a plea in the case.
Ahead of the proceedings, his lawyers have asked the court to throw out 10 of 22 counts filed against the US Army private.
They argue that the US government used “unconstitutionally vague” or “substantially overbroad” language in eight of those counts, in which Manning is accused of “possession and disclosure of sensitive information.”
For two other counts, in which Manning is accused of “having knowingly exceeded authorized access” to a secret Defense Department computer network, his attorneys said the government failed to state an offense.
WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy site created by Julian Assange, caused a diplomatic firestorm when it published documents Manning allegedly sent its way between November 2009 and May 2010.
Manning is painted as a traitor by some for his alleged role in the worst ever breach of US intelligence, which embarrassed Washington and dismayed US allies.
But his supporters view Manning as a political prisoner and praise WikiLeaks for uncovering government secrets.
To give the agencies time to compile the missing material, Coombs called on Lind to briefly postpone the proceedings.
The hearing that opened Wednesday is set to run for three days.
Later this month, the court is scheduled to discuss a list of witnesses.