By Dan De Luce (AFP) – Apr 24, 2012
FORT MEADE, Maryland — A military judge presiding over the case of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning ordered prosecutors Tuesday to provide reports by US agencies assessing the damage caused by the WikiLeaks website.
The decision came at a pre-trial hearing after defense lawyers accused prosecutors of failing to turn over relevant documents that could help their client, an Army private accused of turning over a massive trove of classified data to WikiLeaks.
The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said she would review the reports from the CIA, the FBI and other agencies 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 Deparmtent, could cast doubt on prosecutors' claims that the exposure of classified documents on the WikiLeaks site had devastating or lethal results.
Lind granted a request to allow the State Department to argue before the court why its damage assessment should not be handed over.
"Let's see what the State Department provides," Lind said.
The judge also ordered prosecutors to scan hard drives from computers from Manning's unit in Iraq to look for specific software.
Defense 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."
In a case that involves one of the most serious breaches of US intelligence in history, 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.
The judge is due to rule on the motion to toss out all the charges on Wednesday, as well as the defense's request for a transcript of testimony from the federal grand jury.
Military prosecutor Major Ashden Fein rejected the defense team's accusations, saying 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."
The "aiding the enemy" charge, known as Article 104, carries a possible death sentence.
Manning, who sat in court dressed in a blue Army dress uniform, so far has declined to enter a plea.
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.
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