Manning’s Defense Wants to See Emails

     FORT MEADE, Md. (CN) – More than 1,300 emails could illuminate why high-ranking officials at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., placed alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning in nine months of solitary confinement, a military judge ruled Tuesday.
     Manning was arrested in May 2010 on suspicion of exposing more than 700,000 files about U.S. diplomacy and warfare secrets. He allegedly sent the files to WikiLeaks from an Army base in Iraq, where he served as an intelligence specialist before being demoted to private first class.
     The 24-year-old soldier spent more than two years in pretrial confinement. His nine-month stint at the now-shuttered Quantico brig provoked outcry from the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, who cited allegations of forced nudity, harassment and prolonged isolation.
     Defense attorneys in October will try to persuade the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, that Manning deserves a lighter sentence or dismissal of all charges due to unlawful pretrial punishment.
     The parties met here Tuesday to determine what witnesses and evidence will be admitted at the October hearing.
     One prosecutor, Capt. Angel Overgaard, claimed that Manning had to be placed on prevention-of-injury watch because he made two nooses in suicide attempts in Kuwait, where he was held before his transfer to the United States.
     Overgaard said she needed to interview the psychologists in Kuwait about the incidents, but that the doctors had refused to waive medical privileges.
     “It gives an incomplete picture of what actually occurred,” Overgaard said.
     The judge agreed to order those psychiatrists to speak with prosecutors, but they will be allowed to take the stand only if they directly or indirectly communicated with Quantico officials.
     Unlike their colleagues in Kuwait, Quantico’s mental health officials found that Manning never posed any danger to himself or other inmates, according to a 110-page defense brief.
     Lead defense attorney David Coombs accused a three-star general, then-Maj. Gen. George Flynn, of ordering Quantico staff to ignore these findings and keep Manning isolated to prevent any incident from trickling out to the press.
     “They used their desire not to have negative publicity to have my client in a hole for nine months,” Coombs said.
     Coombs said prosecutors on July 25 handed him 84 smoking-gun emails that prove this allegation, the day before his court-ordered deadline for his most recent brief.
     Coombs told the court that the lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, “let [the emails] collect dust somewhere” for 6 months before handing them over to the defense.
     When prodded about other evidence, Maj. Fein revealed that 1,374 emails matched the defense’s request, Coombs said.
     Fein allegedly delivered a disc with roughly 600 of these messages on the day of the hearing, and refused to share the rest because he claimed they showed only irrelevant details, such as Quantico’s public relations efforts.
     But Coombs said the PR emails shed light on a Jan. 18 incident, when Manning said three guards badgered him hours after his supporters demonstrated at the prison gates.
     “Inexplicably, on that day, they chose to harass my client to the extent that he had an anxiety attack,” Coombs said.
     Calling the connection “fanciful,” Fein said that protest happened 10 miles away from the guards. He said the defense built its abuse allegations using government-disclosed evidence.
     Ridiculing that notion, Coombs said, “[The prosecutors] make lack of due diligence look like altruism in this case.”
     Judge Lind she said she would review the emails herself before handing over emails useful to the defense. But she said that doing so might further delay the trial because she could not complete the task during this week of pretrial hearings.
     “I’m good, but I’m not that good,” Lind said. “I can’t do that in two days.”
     While the judge has often pressed prosecutors to prove that they were sharing all admissible evidence, she rejected an attempt by the defense team to pore through classified data on its own.
     One of Manning’s military defenders, Maj. Thomas Hurley, requested free rein to roam the SIPRNet, the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, a secret government server containing the diplomatic cables exposed by WikiLeaks.
     Restrictions prevent Manning’s attorneys from seeing any information there that has not been deemed relevant for trial.
     Even then, attorneys can see data classified as “secret” or above only at a limited number of places, under a security expert’s supervision, on government-issued laptop computers, with a secure printer and a shredder.
     At first, Lind encouraged the parties to make this process easier, but she bristled at the idea of letting the defense plough through the sensitive information on its own.
     “Maj. Hurley, that’s denied,” Lind snapped. “You’re not getting unfettered access to classified information on the SIPRnet.”
     But the judge allowed the defense a degree of secrecy, by narrowly shielding evidence that she said could invade Manning’s privacy and prejudice a jury.
     The second half of the hearing will take place today (Wednesday), as the parties view classified evidence.
     Large swaths of information still hidden from the public record case may soon see the light of day.
     Early Tuesday, Judge Lind said the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will hear a case that seeks public access to trial transcripts, memos and rulings.
     Those materials are under seal, making public filings in the Manning case more restricted than those in Guantanamo terrorism cases, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
     No information has been released on when the court will hear the case, which was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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