Bradley Manning Trial: Lawyers Argue to Drop Some Charges

Jun 7, 2012 2:25pm
gty bradley manning jp 120607 wblog Bradley Manning Trial: Lawyers Argue to Drop Some Charges

Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Original Post at 10:29 a.m. ET. Updated at 7:17 p.m. ET. Bradley Manning sat in the Ft. Meade military courtroom Thursday wearing a new pair of clear, thin glasses and was seemingly engaged as his lawyers argued in pretrial motions that some of the charges against him should be dropped and asked current State Department employees about the agencies response to the Wikileaks.

At least 20 supporters donning “truth” shirts sat behind him and throughout the courtroom.

Yesterday, the defense argued that the government was purposefully “padding discovery,” giving more pages to defense lawyers than necessary to hide where the important information was located.

The judge denied this motion, saying that discovery pages were “voluminous” but not purposefully padded. The court ruled that although material will have to continually be turned over to the defense, the government does not have to highlight where in the material information that may be pertinent to the defense is located.

Bradley’s defense called two witnesses from the State Department this morning as part of their discovery motion. The first witness, Marguerite Coffey, former State Department Director of the Office of Management Policy Right Sizing and Innovation Policy  who still works for the State Department in a different role, talked about efforts at the State Department to beef up information security, particularly on the use of “thumb drives.”

Defense lead, David Coombs, wanted to know where in government documents he could find the minutes of certain discussions by Cofffey’s team. She testified that up until her departure in July 2011 the records were filed in a filing cabinet in her office, but she currently does not have access nor knows if it still exists.

A second witness, Rena Bitter, is Director of the State Department Operations Center. She spoke about two working groups created under her office’s auspices: the Wiki-leaks Working Group and the Wiki-leaks Persons at Risk Working Group, which were created by the government to deal with fallout from Wikileaks.

The defense has made it pretty clear that the actual damage done from Manning’s alleged release of hundreds of thousands of classified military reports, state department cables, and video clips to the Wikileaks website in 2010 has been minimal, and a platform for their defense. The defense also argued in favor of dismissing eight of the 22 charges against Manning which focus on transmitting classified or sensitive information to unauthorized persons.

One of Manning’s lawyers, Joshua Tooman, argued the government was vague and went overboard in these charges because it didn’t sufficiently explain who had been injured by the leaks. “(It’s) unclear of the type of injury…is it physical injury, is it monetary,” he said. Tooman also said the government as overbroad in their charges and as such could have a chilling effect on speech.

Government lawyers disagreed.  A decision on that motion to dismiss the charges is expected by the close of this session’s hearing. More motions are expected this afternoon, including a defense request to dismiss two of the charges related to allegations that Manning exceeding authorized access of data.

UPDATE:  The day’s third and final witness provided new details about the State Department’s damage assessment of the secret cables that Manning is alleged to have leaked to Wikileaks.

 Catherine Brown, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence Policy and Coordination (IPC) in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR)  testified that an August, 2011 draft damage assessment report, which the defense already has access to, is the last and only damage assessment that was done by the State Department. ”There is no addendum to that document; there is no supplement to that document,” Brown said.

 However, in an effort to explain what is being done to stay “on-top” of the leaks, Brown did disclose that someone in her office has been keeping a file of any “problems” that arise from the leak.

 ”He’s trying to stay current on this in case he were asked to update it (the Damage Assessment),” Brown said, explaining that continual monitoring is needed because “this problem hasn’t gone away” and could continue for “several years to come.”

 Because of today’s testimony Manning’s defense team  asked for access to more information including minutes and agendas from mitigation team meetings, situation reports from other working groups, as well as the latest information from the individual staying “on-top” of the leaks’ impact.

 The prosecution was granted a 30-day delay to allow them time to compile and examine all the new requested discovery items.

On Friday, we expect a ruling on the dismissal motion for 10 of the 22 charges. The judge will also provide an updated case calendar.      

 

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