Witness Defends Secrecy of Cables Leaked by Manning

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – A State Department witness testified Thursday that all of the cables Pfc. Bradley Manning has been charged with compromising were properly marked “confidential” or “secret.”
     The 25-year-old soldier leaked roughly 250,000 diplomatic files to WikiLeaks, which published the trove under the name “Cablegate.” Prosecutors sampled only 117 of those documents in charging Manning for the disclosures. Of those, 96 were marked “confidential,” and 21 were marked “secret.”
     The diplomats affiliated with those cables are Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary John Feeley, from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; Deputy Assistant Secretary James Moore, from the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary H. Dean Pittman, Bureau of International Organization Affairs; ambassador Stephen Seche, who served in Yemen; ambassador Don Yamamoto, who served in Ethiopia; ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who served in Armenia; and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Joseph Yun, who assists in East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
     Nicholas Murphy, a senior adviser with the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and Services, served 23 years as an “original classification authority,” responsible for assessing when government data should remain secret.
     He testified that all 117 of the cables that Manning is charged with compromising were properly classified. Typically, a “confidential” designation indicates that disclosure could damage U.S. national security, and “secret” denotes a potential for “serious damage,” he said.
     He added: “Of the cables I reviewed in the Net Centric Diplomacy database, a portion of them were found to be technically deficient in terms of marking. That is, they contained no declassification date, were missing authority, or improperly cited the E.O.s. However, the presence of technical marking deficiencies does not mean that the cables were not classified. Moreover, I found that portions of some of the cables I reviewed were no longer sensitive.”
     Murphy’s statement was entered into the record through a “stipulation of expected testimony,” rather than live testimony. Unlike a “stipulation of fact,” it does not mean that the parties agree to the truth of what he said. It does, however, waive the defense’s right to confront him about potentially damaging claims.
     Victor Hansen, of New England Law Boston, speculated as to why Manning’s defense might opt for such a trial strategy in a prior interview.
     “There are a couple of issues at play,” he said.
     “First, because this case is being tried before a judge not a military panel there is less need and less value in confronting the witnesses because the confrontation is unlikely to score real points before the judge,” Hansen said.
     “Second, the real issue for the defense is the intent or lack thereof in why Manning released this information,” he added. “The substance of this evidence really does not get to that issue and so the defense is attempting to streamline its case to the issues that really matter to them.”
     A review of the cables the State Department witness identified shows that only one charged cable came from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. It discusses the possibility of having officials from the Israeli Embassy in Mexico City speak at an event marking the 60th anniversary of U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
     According to the “confidential” cable, dated Sept. 4, 2009, UN-Related Security and Legal Issues Deputy Director Julian Juarez Cadenas said that the decision would hinge upon how the majority, “especially the Arab countries,” feels at the Sept. 8 Steering Committee meeting.
     Charged cables from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad delved into controversial allegations of Iranian interference in the new Iraqi government. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad wrote, in a cable marked “secret,” that Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi asserted, “I have been warning about Iran’s influence for some time.”

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