Motion Hearing Opens for Alleged Document Leaker
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., April 24, 2012 The judge in the case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is expected to rule tomorrow on procedural issues that could have a major impact on his trial -- including whether the court should dismiss all charges against the alleged classified document leaker.
Army Col. Denise Lind, the judge, presided over the first of what is expected to be three days of oral arguments during a motion hearing here.
During today’s proceedings, Manning’s defense team argued today that the government was overzealous in pursuing its case against him and should throw out all 22 charges against him. The defense, led by civilian attorney David Coombs, urged Lind today to dismiss all charges against Manning “with prejudice” -- meaning that they can’t be reinstated later.
Manning, a 24-year-old military intelligence analyst, sat silently in the courtroom today, wearing his Army service uniform, between Coombs and his new military defense attorney, Army Capt. Joshua Tooman.
He is charged with charged with what officials believe is the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history. Manning allegedly leaked hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, in turn, released thousands of these documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its website.
Manning was arrested at Forward Operating Base Hammer near Baghdad, Iraq, May 25, 2010. The former 10thMountain Division soldier is accused of installing unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloading it, improperly storing it, and transmitting the data for public release and use by the enemy.
The specific charges, as outlined on his charge sheet, include aiding the enemy; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it is accessible to the enemy; theft of public property or records; transmitting defense information; and fraud and related activity in connection with computers. The charges include violation of Army Regulations 25-2 “Information Assurance” and 380-5 “Department of the Army Information Security Program.”
Manning’s defense team accused the prosecution today of dragging its feet in turning over key documents it needs to provide an adequate defense, in violation of both military and federal law. Coombs claimed the military is hiding behind the fact that other government agencies -- and not the Defense Department -- possess many of these materials as an excuse not to share them with the defense.
Speaking for the prosecution, Army Maj. Ashden Fein told the judge today those materials, which he emphasized aren’t within control of military authorities, have been reviewed and will be turned over to the defense as soon as appropriate approval is granted.
Coombs also pressed today for access to grand jury-related documents regarding the case that military authorities have access to, including grand jury testimony. Lind said she will rule on that request tomorrow.
But Coombs argued that the time this process and the additional reviews will require -- which he said essentially will restart the entire discovery process -- would prevent Manning from receiving the speedy trial he is guaranteed by law. For this reason, Coombs said the entire case should be dismissed.
Much of today’s proceedings focused on damage that resulted from Manning actions, and whether it should be pertinent to the government’s case against him.
Coombs and Tooman argued in motions filed last week that Manning shouldn’t be accused of causing harm not able to be proven or quantified.
The prosecution told the court the charges against Manning should be weighed based on his actions and not their results until the case moves to sentencing. Lind said the government plans to present basic information about damages resulting from Manning’s activities at that point, balancing it against national defense interests.
Lind emphasized that the prosecution already has presented some evidence of these damages to the defense. Broadening the requirements for these disclosures too widely threatens to “graymail” this and future court cases, he said, essentially using the threat of disclosing national secrets to manipulate legal proceedings.
As a compromise measure, Lind directed the government, including the State Department and CIA, today to submit damage assessments by May 18, and said she will review them herself to determine their relevance to the case.
The Obama administration and Defense Departments have claimed that WikiLeaks’ publication of the classified documents put deployed U.S. forces at increased risk.
Aiding the enemy under Article 104 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice is a capital offense; however, the prosecution team has said it won’t recommend the death penalty, a legal official said.
If convicted of all charges, Manning would face a maximum punishment of life in prison. He also could be reduced to E-1, the lowest enlisted grade, face a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dishonorable discharge, officials said.
Manning’s trial date has not yet been scheduled.
Before adjourning today, Lind scheduled a closed-door session tomorrow morning with the prosecution and defense teams, with the court to begin at 10 a.m. Today’s proceedings were broadcast via closed-circuit TV to a media operations center at Fort Meade.