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Manning's attorney seek to have some charges dropped in WikiLeaks case

By Mike Mount, CNN
updated 7:42 PM EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pfc. Bradley Manning's attorneys say the law was not directed at "this kind of conduct"
  • They say some charges are being used in a way that criminalizes speech
  • Manning is accused of leaking tens of thousands of classified documents

Fort Meade, Maryland (CNN) -- The private accused of leaking thousands of documents to WikiLeaks scored a minor victory in a pretrial hearing on Wednesday when the court ordered some documents requested by the defense be turned over by the prosecution.

Pvt. Bradley Manning, flanked by two Army guards and squinting into the sun, walked into the military court at Fort Meade, Maryland, where defense and prosecutors spent the majority of the day sparring over motions to turn over information that could help Manning's defense.

Manning's trial is scheduled to begin on September 21. He is charged with aiding the enemy and wrongfully causing intelligence to be published, among other charges. He is accused of downloading hundreds of thousands of military and other governmental agency classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while stationed in Iraq.

If found guilty, Manning could face life in prison. He has been held by the U.S. military since being arrested in May 2010.

Three days of hearings were scheduled this week so the defense can state its case for dropping 10 of 22 charges against Manning. The defense also is presenting two motions to get more information from the prosecution. But early in the Wednesday hearings, the judge, Col. Denise Lind, added pretrial hearings after defense demands not to do closed-door telephone hearings because they are not on the record.

Lind told the prosecution to hand over a redacted version of a damage assessment report from the Department of Defense's Defense Intelligence Agency. The classified report examined what effect the leaks had on each agency. The prosecution already gave the defense a similar report by the State Department.

The documents could give the defense insight into the level of damage done by the leaks and could potentially help Manning, if they show the effects of his actions were limited.

Wednesday's proceedings continued with arguments on whether other agency damage reports and other agency files could be handed over to the defense, including those from the FBI and CIA, but Lind announced no decisions on those documents.

On Thursday, the court will hear witnesses from the State Department called by the defense. It is believed they will discuss how the damage assessments are created. What they say will be considered in decisions on the motions being discussed but will not have a bearing on the overall trial, according to a Military District of Washington legal spokesman who was not authorized to speak on the record.

The request by Manning's chief lawyer -- a civilian, David Coombs -- to drop 10 charges against his client is expected to be addressed starting on Thursday.

The motions to dismiss include eight charges in which Manning is accused of "unauthorized transmission." Coombs said the prosecution used "unconstitutionally vague" or "substantially over-broad" language in those charges, which fall under the Espionage Act. The defense said when the law was created it was not directed at the actions of which Manning is accused.

In the other two disputed counts, Manning is charged with "knowingly exceeded authorized access" to a secret Defense Department computer network. Manning's lawyers said the prosecution failed to state an offense, because Manning had authorized access to the classified computer system while he was an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Coombs announced Wednesday that Manning had added a lawyer to his defense team. The new lawyer, Army Maj. Thomas F. Hurley, was initially on the Manning case but was pulled to another case, Coombs said. Manning asked for Hurley to be put back on his team, Coombs said in court. Manning now has three lawyers, one civilian and two military officers.

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