Alleged Document Leaker’s Trial Set for September
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., April 26, 2012 Army Pfc. Bradley Manning will go to trial this fall to face charges that he leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents in what’s believed to be the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
Army Col. Denise Lind, the judge presiding over three days of motion hearings here, scheduled the trial to begin Sept. 21 and continue through Oct. 12.
The defense will get to decide if the case will be heard by a judge alone, by a jury to consist of all officers, or by a mixed panel that includes one third enlisted members from within Manning’s current command, the Army’s Military District of Washington.
During the hearings, Lind rejected the defense’s argument yesterday that all 22 charges against him Manning should be dismissed.
Today, she also upheld the most serious charge against him, that he aided the enemy by disclosing classified military and diplomatic documents material to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, in turn, released thousands of these documents, including classified records about military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its website.
Lind specified today that the prosecution must prove that Manning disclosed the data with a clear understanding that the enemy would have access to it.
The decision followed three days of oral arguments, with the discussion centered largely on Manning’s intent in disclosing the classified documents and what damage resulted.
The defense, led by civilian counsel David Coombs, argued that Manning never intended to aid the enemy when he provided the information to WikiLeaks.
The government called Manning’s intent immaterial and said he should be tried based solely on his actions. “Why he did something isn’t relevant,” Army Maj. Ashden Fein, the lead prosecutor, told the judge. What is relevant at this point, he said, is what Manning actually did and how he did it.
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.
The maximum sentence Manning could receive, if found guilty of the charge, is 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.
Lind upheld other lesser charges against Manning, rejecting the defense’s claim the government imposed “unreasonable multiplication of charges,” essentially piling on duplicate charges for the same acts. She said she found no evidence that the prosecution exaggerated Manning’s criminality or otherwise “overreached” in compiling charges against him.
The judge did, however, leave the door open for combining charges in the event that Manning is found guilty and the case moves into the sentencing phase. This could reduce the length of any sentence imposed, a military legal official explained.
The defense team reiterated its call for the government to provide assessments of damages actually caused by the disclosures, calling this information critical to its case. Coombs argued today that the government’s failure to provide a full accounting of harm done demonstrates that the disclosures actually had minimal impact.
Fein said the burden of proving actual damages isn’t the government’s responsibility, and that that information, should it be considered at all, should be reserved until sentencing.
Lind did not say when she will rule on the defense’s request for damage assessments. She said she will review these documents personally to determine if the defense team should have access to them.
The judge also has yet to consider a new prosecution request to reconsider her directive that the State Department share its interim damage assessment report findings.
Lind ruled yesterday that the prosecution does not have to provide the defense team transcripts of federal grand jury testimony regarding the WikiLeaks case. Although the FBI has been involved in the WikiLeaks investigation, the judge said the military has no authority to release the FBI information.
Manning sat emotionless in the courtroom wearing his Army service uniform during the three days of oral arguments. He followed the proceedings closely, periodically jotting notes on a yellow pad or leaning toward Coombs or his new military defense attorney, Army Capt. Joshua Tooman, to whisper a comment or peek at a document.
The 24-year-old military intelligence analyst was arrested at Contingency Operating Base Hammer near Baghdad, Iraq, May 25, 2010. A former 10th Mountain Division soldier, he 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 has not issued a plea on these charges.
Along with the trial dates, Lind scheduled additional hearings related to the case: June 6 to 8; July 16 to 20; Aug. 27 to 31; and Sept. 19 to 20. The hearings will focus on specific elements related to each charge to ensure a common understanding as both sides prepare their cases, as well as other procedural items.