Manning Defense Commences with Move to Drop 'Aiding the Enemy' Charge

'Collateral Murder' played in court as defense begins their case

As lawyers working on behalf of Pfc. Bradley Manning commenced their case Monday, lead attorney David Coombs requested to drop a number of charges against the whistleblower--including the most serious charge of 'aiding the enemy'--because of a lack of evidence on the part of the prosecution.

The Guardian's Ed Pilkington, reporting from the trial in Fort Meade, Maryland, writes that Coombs filed four motions for a finding of "not guilty" on specific charges:

In addition to aiding the enemy, the relevant counts include the allegation that Manning stole or purloined US property in the form of unauthorized intelligence drawn from Afghan and Iraq warlogs, Guantanamo detainee files and hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables from embassies around the world.

Coombs has also filed a motion to dismiss the allegation that Manning violated section 1030 of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by "knowingly exceeding authorised access" on a secret military network and transmitting documents to WikiLeaks, "with reason to believe that such information so obtained could be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation."

The request to drop charges is based on a determination by the defense that the government failed to present evidence on an individual element or "specification."

During the prosecution's turn, which wrapped up last Wednesday, there were a number of holes in their argument including the "embarrassing admission" that the Army had misplaced Manning's military contract, the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).

The presiding judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, is expected to rule on the request to drop charges in a few days.

According to live reporting from Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake, the infamous "Collateral Murder" video depicting a 2007 Apache helicopter attack on a group of unarmed civilians in Baghdad--which Manning leaked to WikiLeaks--was played during the hearing today, despite objections from the prosecution that the video was "not relevant."

The first witness called by the defense Monday was chief warrant officer Joshua Ehresman, who worked alongside Manning in the intelligence unit of Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad between November 2009 and May 2010.

"Ehresman described the culture of the unit as one in which intelligence analysts such as Manning regularly downloaded classified information onto CDs, as well playing music and movies on their secret government computers," Pilkington reports. "There were no rules on what an analyst could or could not burn onto a CD or download from the secret Siprnet database to which they had access."

According to Pilkington, Ehresman described Manning as the best intelligence analyst of the group. "He was the best; that's why he was our go-to guy for that stuff," he told the court.

Among the other defense witnesses expected to testify later this week are Colonel Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo detention camp, and Professor Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor. He will likely focus on the role of WikiLeaks as a "modern digital organization" in an effort to combat the argument that Manning intentionally sought to assist enemy groups by leaking the material.

You can follow live updates on Twitter as the defense continues to present their case this week:


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