FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - Just after a military judge blocked Bradley Manning's lawyer from challenging government classifications Wednesday, a prosecutor asked the court to close the public from about a third of the upcoming trial.
Manning, 25, will stand trial in June, shortly after the three-year anniversary of his arrest for allegedly sending WikiLeaks the biggest intelligence trove in United States history.
The private first class is expected to admit Thursday to having leaked the vast majority of the documents, including diplomatic cables and incident reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
He also plans to plead not guilty to "aiding the enemy," the top charge against him, which carries a potential life sentence.
The anticipated plea could alter many of the remaining 21 specifications against him, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Espionage Act and violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Manning's arsenal for contesting the remaining allegations lost one more tool on Wednesday, as the presiding judge, Col. Denise Lind, ruled that his lawyers cannot argue that the government generally keeps too much data under wraps.
The relevant topic is whether the specific files that Manning allegedly leaked were classified improperly, she said.
Manning can still make some narrow references, however, to the Reducing Over-Classification Act, a law that President Barack Obama signed to address the issue. It aimed mostly to encourage agencies to share sensitive information with each other, rather than the public.
Manning's lead attorney, David Coombs, wants to cite the legislation and the congressional testimony leading to its passage to argue "that the classification system is broken" and has "negative consequences for the nation."
A Senate subcommittee that convened three times in 2007 heard testimony from J. William Leonard, oversight director of the National Archives and Records Administration; Carter Morris, from the Department of Homeland Security; FBI assistant intelligence director Wayne Murphy; and various other state and federal intelligence officials.
The defense will be able to cite Leonard's findings that classification officials at NARA only made correct decisions 64 percent of the time because these were formalized findings.
Testimony from the other officials, however, represented merely irrelevant personal opinions, the judge ruled.
Lind also barred testimony by Thomas Blanton, the director of George Washington University's National Security Archive, who criticized "WikiMania" during a different congressional hearing.
"We are well into a syndrome that one senior government official called 'Wikimania,' where Wikimyths are common and there is far more heat than light. That heat will actually produce more leaks, more crackdowns, less accountable government, and diminished security," Blanton said.
Lind blasted this remark, which was a record of a comment that quoted another official, as "triple hearsay."
The defense still must prove the relevance of the admissible evidence at trial.
Nearly a Third of WikiLeaks Trial May Be Closed
The hearing Wednesday also marked the start of a Grunden hearing, named after a U.S. airman convicted of trying to sell information about U2 spy planes in the 1970s.
An attempt by prosecutors decided to try that man in secret led the military's highest court to adopt procedures that balance the right of a public trial with the protection of classified information.