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Military judge rejects request to dismiss charges in WikiLeaks case

By Larry Shaughnessy and Michael Martinez
updated 6:16 PM EDT, Wed April 25, 2012
Pfc. Bradley Manning is suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
Pfc. Bradley Manning is suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Military judge will rule Thursday on another dismissal motion by Pfc. Bradley Manning
  • Military judge rejects Wednesday the defense request to dismiss all the charges
  • Manning is accused of leaking classified military and State Department documents
  • Those documents ended up on the WikiLeaks website, authorities say

Fort Meade, Maryland (CNN) -- A military judge denied a request Wednesday to dismiss all the charges against the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military and State Department documents while serving in Iraq.

The charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning include aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, transmitting national defense information and theft of public property or records.

His trial is set for September 21. He could go to prison for life if convicted.

The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, said she would rule Thursday on another defense request to dismiss the first charge against Manning on constitutional grounds -- that he knowingly gave "intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means."

In the motion rejected by the judge Wednesday, Manning's defense team had argued that all charges should be dismissed on procedural grounds.

On Wednesday, Manning's lead lawyer, David Coombs, singled out the first charge and argued that it is so vague and broad that it is unconstitutional. Also, the prosecution failed to show unlawful intent in the way the charge is worded, Coombs told the court.

The charge, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, is "alarming in its scope," Coombs said. Under the charge, "no soldier would ever be comfortable saying anything to any news reporter," Coombs said, adding that soldiers could even be charged after posting something on a family member's Facebook page.

Capt. Joe Morrow, one of the prosecutors, said Manning's training taught him that the enemy accessed WikiLeaks and that by allegedly giving the site intelligence, intent was established.

In the unsuccessful motion seeking a dismissal of all charges, Coombs alleged "widespread discovery violations" by military prosecutors. Judge Lind rejected the dismissal motion.

Coombs argued this week that because prosecutors did not understand the discovery rules, he and his fellow attorneys have not been given information that could help in Manning's defense.

101: WikiLeaks revealed

For example, Coombs said, of the 15 computers in the secure area where Manning worked as intelligence analyst, 10 of those computers' hard drives had been wiped clean. He also said that of the remaining five computers, evidence was found indicating many soldiers added unauthorized software.

One of the charges against Manning accuses him of adding software to computers to allegedly allow him to download classified documents.

The chief prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, told the court this week that the prosecution team has been looking all along for information that they would be required to turn over to the defense and that they do turn over all they are required to as soon as possible.

Coombs also asked the judge to order the turnover of damage assessment reports created by several federal agencies that examined the problems caused by the release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents by WikiLeaks.

Lind told prosecutors to get those reports from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, the State Department and the Justice Department and provide them to her so she may review them in private before ruling on whether Manning's attorneys can see them.

The CIA has been granted a delay until May 2 to respond to the request, and the State Department is preparing a document showing why it doesn't have to provide damage assessments under the court's rules.

Coombs, a civilian attorney being paid by Manning supporters, hasn't said whether he'll request a trial by a military judge, a panel of senior officers or a panel that includes one-third enlisted noncommissioned officers.

On Wednesday, the judge admonished the courtroom gallery after a woman who appeared to be a Manning supporter audibly grunted several times during oral arguments.

Some Manning supporters seated behind him wore T-shirts with "truth" written on them, an apparent reference to their desire to let Manning speak the truth about the Iraq war.

After the court recessed for the day, several supporters made loud comments in the courtroom, including one who said "Free Bradley Manning." No one, including Manning, acknowledged the comments.

CNN's Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report from Fort Meade and Michael Martinez from Los Angeles.

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