US military whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning won a significant victory in court on Wednesday when Judge Denise Lind ordered the US government to hand over crucial documents, including the State Department’s preliminary damage assessment of Manning's actions, to the defense; Manning's lawyers argue that the information is vital to Manning's case.
"Should those assessments reveal that the US government found that the fallout from WikiLeaks was limited, that could be used by Manning's defense to argue his innocence against some of the charges he faces, such as aiding the enemy. If the soldier is found guilty, the information might then prove invaluable in reducing any sentence," the Guardian/UK reports.
Manning's Defense attorney David Coombs made the case that little of the government’s evidence against Manning has actually been provided.
Today, the court will hear from the first witnesses including three State Department employees called by the defense.
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Al-Jazeera: Judge orders more disclosure in Manning case
The defence team in the case against PFC Bradley Manning gained some ground getting the US government to turn over material related to their case. Manning is accused of taking thousands of classified US government documents from a secure computer and providing them to the whistleblower website Wikileaks.
At a hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland on Wednesday, Judge Denise Lind asked the prosecution what material collected and analyzed by nearly a dozen government agencies, committees, and review boards has been turned over to the defence and wasn’t satisfied with the answer.
Lind ordered the prosecution to provide the defence with the State Department’s preliminary damage assessment. The government sought to keep that information because it wasn’t a final report.
The defence complained that the CIA’s damage assessment was all classified. Lind said that wasn’t sufficient and said she’d review the assessment to determine how much of it can be turned over to the defence. She also ordered the government to identify relevant information and pass it along.
Defence attorney David Coombs has decried how little of the government’s evidence against his client has been provided by the prosecution. Lead prosecutor Major Ashden Fine said the FBI gave 3,475 documents related to Manning to the prosecution. They’ve provided only 636 to the defence.
Later in the day, the judge pressed Major Fine about the documents that hadn’t been handed over to the defence. Fine maintained the defence hasn’t asked for specific information but broadly every document related to the case. Fine said, “This is a tactic to slow this prosecution down.” But the judge didn’t agree. She called it a circular argument, that the defence can’t make a specific request for information if they don’t know what information is available.
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The judge presiding over his trial at Fort Meade in Maryland has ordered the US government to hand over several confidential documents relating to the massive leak to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
In particular, the Obama administration must now disclose to Manning's lawyers some of the damage assessments it carried out into the impact of the leak on US interests around the world.
Should those assessments reveal that the US government found that the fallout from WikiLeaks was limited, that could be used by Manning's defence to argue his innocence against some of the charges he faces, such as aiding the enemy. If the soldier is found guilty, the information might then prove invaluable in reducing any sentence.
As a result of the ruling, Manning's defence team was handed the main findings of a state department investigation into the impact of WikiLeaks on Tuesday evening.
Though the information has not been made public, it is likely to include the assessments of embassies across the globe of the effects on their work of the publication of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables.
In addition, Manning's defence lawyers will now also be able to see a redacted report into WikiLeaks by the defence intelligence agency. It was also revealed that the FBI carried out its own inquiry into the leak of confidential material to WikiLeaks, which the Manning's defence lawyers will also now pursue.
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