When we last checked in on the adventures of Bradley Manning, the attorney for the accused traitor was attempting to get half of the charges against him thrown out. He apparently felt that bringing charges against the lad for allegedly revealing hundreds of thousands of classified documents was … umm… unfair. Or something.
So how did that work out for them? In the eyes of the judge, not so well.
Bradley Manning has failed to persuade a military judge to throw out half of the counts against him in a pre-trial hearing before his court martial for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of state secrets to WikiLeaks.
Colonel Denise Lind, presiding over the proceedings at Fort Meade in Maryland, rejected a defence motion that 10 of the 22 counts against the US soldier should be dismissed. The decision leaves Manning facing a possible sentence of life in military custody for allegedly having been the source of the WikiLeaks publications that included war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, video footage of a US helicopter attack on civilians and diplomatic cables from around the world.
It wasn’t a total loss for his attorney, David Coombs, though, because he seems to have the judge at least raising some questions about two of the charges. Coombs claimed that the charges of having “exceeded authorized access” in downloading documents from the secret military computer network were invalid because part of Manning’s job was to search through various intelligence data and look for patterns. The judge appears to be at least somewhat sympathetic to this claim.
Manning’s defence team objected to that more expansive interpretation of the term “authorised access”, arguing that he was clearly permitted to use the computer network and that his purpose for doing so was irrelevant to the charge. The judge agreed with that legal interpretation, but said she did not have sufficient evidence to dismiss the two counts.
Her nuanced ruling, however, puts the onus on the prosecution to up its game in pressing these two counts at trial.
In the end, all that this maneuver accomplished was yet another delay in the beginning of the actual Court Martial while the judge schedules additional pretrial hearings to explore these complaints. The real trial may now be pushed back as far as January. It also shows precisely how careful the judge is being, making sure that nobody can claim that Manning didn’t get each and every opportunity to present the best defense possible.
As far as I’m concerned, Coombs needs to drop these legal parlor games, muster the best defense he can manage and move on to trial. There is simply no way that the military is going to throw this case out on a technicality and send Manning home. We’re not talking about a soldier getting drunk and stealing Navy’s mascot during the football game or sneaking off base when he’s supposed to be on watch. This is Aiding the Enemy during a time of war, and there is going to be a trial. The fact that his client is most likely not going to be facing a firing squad is already a small miracle, so Coombs should count his lucky stars and get on with it.
Besides, this latest delay has changed precisely nothing in terms of Manning’s situation. He’s still going to be locked up at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas under maximum security until the Court Martial concludes. I remain convinced that Coombs seems particularly ill suited for this case.