The military judge trying the case of alleged WikiLeaker Army Pfc. Bradley Manning last week rejected a defense motion to throw out 10 of the 22 charges against him.
Army Col. Denise Lind refused the defense’s argument that eight of the charges are unconstitutionally vague and overly broad.
She also upheld two other charges that Manning had exceeded his authorized access to classified Defense Department networks. Lind did announce, however, that she would use a narrow interpretation of the statute in this case. This raises the standard for what the prosecution will need to prove for Manning to be found guilty, a military lawyer told reporters.
The judge also announced that Manning’s trial, initially scheduled to begin Sept. 21, likely will be delayed until November or possibly January. The defense team had asked for more time to review documents associated with the case and prepare its arguments.
The rulings came at the end of a three-day hearing here leading up to what’s expected to be a three-week trial.
Manning, 24, is accused of the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history while deployed to Iraq as a military intelligence analyst. The former 10th Mountain 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 to the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks, in turn, released thousands of these documents, including classified records about military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its website.
Manning is charged with 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 also include violation of Army Regulations 25-2 “Information Assurance” and 380-5 “Department of the Army Information Security Program.”
If found guilty, Manning could receive up to life in prison. He also could be reduced to E-1, the lowest enlisted grade, and face a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dishonorable discharge.
Much of this week’s pre-trial hearing, one of several to iron out issues related to the case, centered around what documents are being made available, and how quickly, for the defense to prepare for the trial.
Manning’s civilian attorney, David Coombs, complained of getting discovery documents too slowly, in a piecemeal fashion or with so many sections redacted – meaning parts of them have been blacked out – that they’re of little value.
The defense team hopes to use these documents to show that Manning caused little or no damage.
Last week three State Department officials called by the defense testified that the department stood up three different teams after the leaks occurred to do damage control, identify people considered to be at risk because of the disclosures and improve computer security. The witnesses did not testify about what damages may have been caused.
In an effort to keep the proceedings as close to the projected schedule as possible, Lind announced this week that she would add additional pretrial hearings to assess progress and break through any logjams.
Lind announced that the next hearing will be June 25. At that session, both the prosecution and defense teams are scheduled to submit recommended instructions for the court to give the panel at the trial.
The defense team will have the choice of having the case decided by Lind alone, a military panel, or a jury.