Manning Prosecution Rests & Drops a Charge
FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - The government ended its case against Pfc. Bradley Manning on Tuesday by dropping its controversial claim that disclosures to WikiLeaks aided a "classified" enemy.
Prosecutors had accused Manning of "aiding the enemy," in particular, al-Qaida, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and a "classified enemy."
With legal scholars stumped over the term, a military spokeswoman eventually explained that the concept referred to "the means and methods of collection that the government has employed to" determine that its "enemy is in receipt of certain compromised classified information."
As the government rested its case Tuesday, however, Maj. Ashden Fein announced a new plan to drop the classified enemy charge.
"The United States has not presented nor does it intend to present, since the government rested, the evidence that was offered during the bill of particulars of a classified enemy," the lead prosecutor said.
Fein made the comment shortly after a roughly three-hour classified session with the government's final witness: Daniel Lewis, a counterintelligence and counterespionage agent with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Manning's lawyers had tried Monday to disqualify Lewis as an expert on offensive counterintelligence and the value of classified information to foreign intelligence agencies.
Lewis apparently defended his credentials in the classified session Tuesday after Col. Denise Lind seemed inclined to let the agent speak only to his experience in all aspects of counterintelligence.
The military judge had said Lewis needed to further demonstrate expertise in assigning value to classified data - a significant hurdle since the government must prove that the leaks had a baseline economic worth to convict on multiple counts. That cost could also impact Manning's sentence.
Lind said that Lewis must first meet the standards laid out in a classified supplement to opine about the value of the data.
The admitted testimony lasted most of the afternoon behind closed doors. It ended with a brief open court session in which Fein announced that Lewis had met his secret burden and testified about all topics.
With the government's case now closed, proceedings will recess for the July 4 weekend and resume Monday.
Manning's lawyers are expected to try to dismiss the charges before presenting their case.
A single guilty verdict will trigger the beginning of a sentencing case, in which both parties will present witnesses and evidence as to what harm, if any, the leaks caused to U.S. security. Manning's lead attorney, David Coombs, has said he will present government agency reports showing that Manning's disclosures caused minimal impact.
Months before his trial, the 25-year-old soldier acknowledged he uploaded more than 700,000 files, including diplomatic cables, incident reports from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, profiles of Guantanamo detainees, and a video of an airstrike in Baghdad that WikiLeaks titled "Collateral Murder."
Manning said he sent the files unsolicited to spark national and international conversations about the way the U.S. conducts war and diplomacy. His supporters hail him as a whistle-blower who exposed crimes and corruption that Washington would have preferred to remain hidden.