Disputed Tweets May not Fly in Manning Trial

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – Prosecutors fought Tuesday to use Twitter postings they hope will depict Pfc. Bradley Manning as a WikiLeaks foot soldier, rather than its journalistic source.
     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.”
     In making that statement, he insisted that nobody at WikiLeaks pressured him to send more documents. Prosecutors think they can prove otherwise with the aid of two Tweets they pulled from a Google cache.
     A Jan. 8, 2010, post states: “Have encrypted videos of US bomb strikes on civilians http://bit.ly/wlafghan2 we need super computer time http://ljsf.org.”
     Another, dated May 7, 2010, announced: “We would like a list of as many .mil email addresses as possible. Please contact editor@wikileaks.org.”
     Prosecutors said the first post connects Manning to the disclosure of an airstrike on the Farah province of Afghanistan that reportedly killed an estimated 86 to 147 civilians. The latter purportedly ties Manning to the compromise of a “Global Address List” of tens of thousands of armed service members in Iraq.
     Manning contests both of these inferences, and his attorneys argued that the forensic evidence does not support the admission of the Tweets. Evidence that Manning even saw the posting never showed up in the “mountains of forensic evidence in this case,” defense attorney Capt. Joshua Tooman said.
     “They looked for anything related to WikiLeaks,” he said. “Anything.”
     But while reams of information about downloads, uploads and Internet searches have been entered into the record, forensic analysts testifying for the government said they never found a user fitting Manning’s profile on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed.
     Nor did the prosecution prove that Manning viewed the so-called “Most-Wanted Leaks” list in selecting files, Tooman said.
     Capt. Alexander van Elton, one of the prosecutors, attributed this to Manning’s wipe of his computer in January 2010.
     But Tooman said this explanation still does not account for the dearth of evidence about the May 2010 Tweet.
     The timeline for the January post moreover aligns with former Brookhaven Laboratory employee Jason Katz, whom the government reportedly subpoenaed in a criminal probe against WikiLeaks, Tooman added.
     Forensic witnesses said the Farah video was found on Katz’s computer, and that the evidence does not establish a link between Manning and Katz.
     The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, asked Tooman whether the court could hear evidence about whether Manning had the opportunity to view this information. The question of whether he actually did view the materials could be argued later.
     Tooman insisted, however, that the evidence is only relevant if Manning viewed it.
     “This is what we think the court has to determine now,” he said. “Did he hear it? Did he see it?”
     The Manning defense also attacked the evidence on authenticity and relevance grounds. Forensic analysts culled the Tweets and “Most-Wanted” list from a Google cache, not the original source. A tampered version of these could have found its way to this archive, Tooman suggested.
     Tooman called the Tweets “double hearsay,” a Google cache report of a Twitter feed purportedly attributed to WikiLeaks. The “Most-Wanted List,” which is populated by visitors to WikiLeaks, would be “quadruple hearsay,” Tooman said.
     Court will adjourn for a week as the parties work out “stipulations of expected testimony” by 17 more witnesses. This is expected to speed up trial by allowing these witnesses to testify in a document without taking the stand. Proceedings will resume on Tuesday.

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