No Charge Alterations at Manning Court-Martial

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – A military judge refused to dismiss any charges against WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning as closing arguments began this morning.
     Prosecutors accuse the young soldier of “aiding the enemy,” citing a Civil War precedent that likens leaking to the press with treason if an adversary receives the information.
     They have also charged Manning with violations of the Espionage Act of 1917, a statute originally intended to clamp down on World War I dissenters, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as assorted military violations.
     The Espionage Act has been used only about a dozen times in U.S. history for an unauthorized disclosure, and the computer fraud law faced recent criticism after its harsh penalties seemingly drove so-called “hactivist” Aaron Swartz to commit suicide.
     While an “aiding the enemy” conviction could put Manning away for life, the other 21 counts would tack an additional 154 years to his sentence.
     The 25-year-old former intelligence specialist admits to having leaked more than 700,000 files including diplomatic cables, incident reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, profiles of Guantanamo detainees, and a video of a Baghdad airstrike that WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder.”
     Manning’s lawyer says his client is charged with stealing “databases” even though the leaked files were a subset contained within the databases.
     The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, has acknowledged that two of these databases in particular, from the Iraq and Afghanistan battlefields, contained several categories of files that Manning never disclosed. The young soldier leaked “significant action reports,” or SigActs, which he said he believed to be low-sensitivity documents safe for release. Government witnesses testified that there are several categories of more sensitive files that Manning did not disclose.
     Manning also leaked cables marked “SipDis,” meaning that the government intended to distribute them on the SIPRNet, a database made for wide government distribution. More sensitive tags included “NoDis,” for no distribution; “ExDis,” for executive distribution; “Roger,” for intelligence distribution; and “TerRep,” for terrorism-related matters, testimony has shown.
     Col. Denise Lind ruled Thursday morning that the discrepancies “do not mislead the accused.” She allowed the government to amend the original charge sheet to state that “a portion of” the databases were allegedly stolen.
     Closing arguments are slated to begin this morning.

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