Bradley Manning’s lawyers accuse U.S. of hiding key documents

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 17:57 EDT
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Bradley Manning protester via AFP
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FORT MEADE, Maryland — Defense lawyers for WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning accused US military prosecutors Tuesday of “gamesmanship” by failing to turn over relevant documents that could help their client’s case.

At a pre-trial hearing, defense attorneys and prosecutors argued over whether the government has met its obligations to share pertinent information with Manning, a US Army private accused of turning over a trove of classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.

Responding to a request by Manning’s lawyers, the judge, Colonel Denise Lind, ordered prosecutors to provide the court with “damage assessment” reports by the CIA and other government agencies that looked at the effect of the WikiLeaks episode.

The judge said she would review the “damage assessment” reports to determine whether the documents were pertinent to Manning’s defense.

The damage reports, including those from the CIA, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department, could cast doubt on prosecutors’ claims that the exposure of classified documents on the WikiLeaks site had devastating or lethal results.

The judge also ordered prosecutors to scan hard drives from computers from Manning’s unit in Iraq to look for specific software.

Manning’s lawyers had demanded access to the hard drives, as they believe a search will show that other soldiers were downloading unauthorized software, including chat services and games, on purportedly secure computers.

Manning’s civilian counsel, David Coombs, also argued in a separate motion that the government must share testimony from a federal grand jury investigation into the WikiLeaks case.

Military court rules require information be shared fully with a defendant and that there be “no gamesmanship, no holding things back,” Coombs told the court.

But he said that “every step of the way” prosecutors “are trying to interpret rules in the most narrow possible way.”

Attorneys for Manning have filed motions asking the judge to throw out all or some of the 22 counts that allege their client passed along a massive trove of classified documents to the secret-spilling website.

The defense argues the whole case should be dismissed because the government has utterly failed to fulfill its duty to disclose pertinent information.

But military prosecutor Major Ashden Fein said the government had made every effort to share information and had made comprehensive requests to government agencies and military units.

“We are producing above and beyond the minimum standard,” Fein told the court.

At this military base northeast of Washington, Manning’s lawyers this week also plan to challenge the most serious charge: that the former intelligence analyst was “aiding the enemy,” saying there is no evidence showing their client had “criminal intent.”

“PFC Manning expressly disclaimed any intent to help any enemy of the United States” in his online chat logs, Coombs wrote in a defense motion.

The government is not claiming that Manning intended to give intelligence to Al-Qaeda but that he understood that if the information was published, it “might be accessible to the enemy and that such information might help the enemy,” Coombs wrote.

The “aiding the enemy” charge, known as Article 104, carries a possible death sentence.

Manning so far has declined to enter a plea on the counts he faces in a case that involves one of the most serious intelligence breaches in US history.

Manning is accused of passing hundreds of thousands of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks between November 2009 and May 2010, when he served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

The leak of the military documents shed light on civilian deaths, while the diplomatic cables exposed the private remarks of heads of state and candid observations by senior US officials.

The episode embarrassed the US government, and officials said the document dump threatened national security and the lives of foreigners working with the military and US embassies.

WikiLeaks supporters view the site as a whistleblower that exposed US wrongdoing and portray Manning as a political prisoner.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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