News24

WikiLeaks caused no damage to US: Lawyer

2012-07-19 12:06

Fort Meade - A US soldier accused of passing a trove of documents to WikiLeaks asked a military judge on Wednesday to allow him to cite evidence showing his leak caused no damage to the United States.

A defence lawyer for US Army private Bradley Manning argued that his client took care to disclose files that would not harm US interests and subsequent government reports have shown no major "injury" was caused.

But prosecutors countered that the potential harm caused by the disclosures is irrelevant to the court-martial and that Manning committed a crime simply by leaking classified information without permission.

Manning's lead attorney, David Coombs, faced tough questions at the pre-trial hearing from Judge Denise Lind, who said at one point the defence's argument was "confusing".

"How is something that happened after the fact [leak] relevant?" Lind asked.

The judge made no ruling on the issue on Wednesday but if she bars evidence related to the possible harm caused by the leaks, it would represent a major blow to Manning's defence.

Setback


The trial is due to begin in September for Manning, aged 24, who faces a possible life sentence if convicted of aiding the enemy by giving hundreds of thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks, the secret-spilling website.

The baby-faced soldier, who attended the hearing clad in a dress uniform, was a low-ranking intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq when he was arrested in May 2010 and accused of releasing thousands of classified military logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department diplomatic cables.

In a setback for Manning, the judge on Wednesday dismissed a request to dismiss two of 22 counts that charge him with gaining "unauthorised access" to classified documents.

Manning's lawyer had maintained that his client had permission to download secret diplomatic cables and that he had not circumvented any electronic "gate".

But military prosecutors said that by using software that was not authorised to retrieve a huge cache of sensitive files, Manning had committed a serious crime.