On Wednesday military prosecutors in the case of former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning said they would introduce evidence that WikiLeaks materials Manning is accused of passing to Julian Assange were found at Osama bin Laden’s safe house, Scott Shane of the New York Times reports.The evidence is the clearest indication yet of how the government intends to link Private Manning’s alleged leaks to aiding al-Qaeda and terrorism.
Manning, 25, is accused of the largest unauthorised disclosure of confidential documents in history and charged with “aiding the enemy,” which refers to “knowingly giving intelligence to the enemy through indirect means.”
The government indicated to Judge Army Col. Denise Lind that it had “digital media found during the UBL raid.” There was a “letter from UBL to Al Qaeda requesting a member gather [defence Department] information.” A response to that letter had CIDNE reports—war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan—and State Department cables attached. Bin Laden had these in his possession “at the time of the raid.”
The timeline of events makes the scenario plausible: Manning was arrested in May 2010, WikiLeaks published the “Afghan War Logs” in July 2010 and the “Iraq War Logs” in October 2010, the Times and other news organisations began publishing State Department cables obtained from WikiLeaks in November 2010, and Navy Seals raided Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad safe house in May 2011.
The potential damage to U.S. national security likely contributed to the harsh and illegal pretrial detainment of Manning. But defence witnesses will argue that the material Manning allegedly gave WikiLeaks was relatively low-grade and outdated information that could not “aid the enemy” as the government alleges.
Shane notes that the Justice Department is carrying out an investigation of WikiLeaks to determine whether Assange or his associates can be charged with a crime such as “aiding the enemy.” He adds that prosecuting WikiLeaks would set a “dangerous precedent for news organisations like The Times that frequently obtain and publish information the government considers classified.”
Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian argues that the government’s “aiding the enemy” argument “applies to virtually every leak of classified information to any media organisation, thus transforming standard whistle-blowing into the equivalent of treason.”
Manning’s trial, which is expected to take about six weeks, has been postponed until at least June 3 to allow consideration of classified information that may be used. Manning would likely face life without parole if convicted on all 22 charges.
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