Court Rulings Set Parameters of WikiLeaks Suspect’s Trial

Watch WikiSecrets, FRONTLINE’s investigation into Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and the largest intelligence breach in U.S. history, and The Private Life of Bradley Manning, a profile of the early years of the young soldier now accused of leaking more than half a million classified U.S. government documents.

The motive behind the largest intelligence breach in U.S. history will be irrelevant, according to a ruling by Army Judge Col. Denise Lind in a military court in Fort Meade, Md. this week.

This week Judge Lind issued a number of rulings in the case of PFC Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking more than 500,000 documents to WikiLeaks. The judge’s ruling on motive was seen as a blow for the defense who will now be prohibited from arguing that Manning may have had a moral reason for leaking the material

Judge Lind also issued a number of other rulings:

  • The defense will be allowed to argue that Manning was selective about the kind of information he chose to leak, in order to not damage national security.
  • The prosecution will be required to prove that Manning leaked the information knowing that it would fall into the hands of the ‘enemy,’ namely Al Qaeda.  “Aiding the enemy,” which could lead to a life sentence, is the most serious charge facing Private Manning.
  • The defense will not be allowed to enter into evidence reports from U.S. intelligence services that assess the damage done by the leaks.  The judge had earlier ruled that the defense could see the documents, which were discussed in a closed session of the court, but they will not be discussed during the court-martial.

Also this week, the judge heard arguments on the defense team’s motion to dismiss all charges because Manning had been denied his right to a speedy trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and military court-martial rules.  A service member is traditionally entitled to a trial within 120 days of being charged or confined.  Manning has been detained for more than 1,000 days since being arrested.  The prosecution claims the delays have been justified, given the extraordinary nature of the case, and the need to comb through vast amounts of evidence, but Manning’s team is arguing the delay amounts to a violation of Manning’s rights.

Judge Lind said she would announce her ruling on the motion to dismiss by Feb. 26. Manning’s court-martial is scheduled to begin in June.

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