On July 2nd, motions were filed to direct not-guilty verdicts on some of the most serious of the charges facing PFC Bradley Manning, the soldier who found himself under court-martial after he leaked classified documents and videos to the website Wikileaks.org. The charges in question are “aiding the enemy,” committing computer fraud, and stealing government property.
“We’re expecting a significant legal victory next week,” said Jeff Paterson, project director for the Bradley Manning Support Network. “The government’s incompetent over-prosecution has been a welcome surprise.”
The oral arguments were heard in court on July 15th, and court is currently in recess until Thursday, July 18th.
Manning’s supporters are calling into question the perception of WikiLeaks itself, arguing that it was seen as a legitimate journalistic outlet before government rhetoric sullied its reputation and turned it into an outlet widely viewed as being associated with terrorism. On this, they may have a good start, as the judge denied the government’s request for their witness to rebut the testimony of Professor Yohai Benkler, who testified in length in defense of the journalistic legitimacy of WikiLeaks.
As far as the other charges, Manning’s defense is contending that the way the government has charged him with “aiding the enemy” punishes people for getting information out to the press, and that the charge is being used not only to discipline him, but to discourage any future whistleblowers.
The computer fraud charges are being fought largely on technicalities and semantics. Manning’s defense argues that all the information he shared was information that he had access to without bypassing any firewalls. Whether he had access to the information or used computer systems to download them is a crucial point in whether or not the computer fraud charges will be dropped.
Thursday could prove to be a crucial day in the trial, as there is expected to be a decision made on the arguments to dismiss these charges, which carry the stiffest penalties.
As always, Queerty’s got you covered and we’ll keep you posted.