WASHINGTON – Legal experts say WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning’s lawyers might have lost a key element of their defense because of a military judge’s ruling this week that would prevent them from using evidence to contend that there was little “actual harm” from the enormous leak of secret government documents.
Manning, a U.S. soldier, is charged with “aiding the enemy” through leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified documents – the largest in U.S. history – to the secret-exposing website. Recent evidence from dozens of government reports showed the leaks caused little “actual harm” to national security, Manning’s defense says, arguing that it should be able to use that evidence.
“Two years after the alleged leaks, the conclusion is still merely that the information ‘could’ cause damage - not that it ‘did’ cause damage,” the defense wrote in a filing to the court, calling the speculation of possible damage without proof “far-fetched and fanciful.”
On Thursday, however, military judge Army Col. Denise Lind ruled in favor of the government’s argument, saying that evidence of harm caused after the leaks were released isn’t relevant to determining Manning’s guilt or innocence and that it might confuse jurors by shifting the trial’s focus.
Other than two narrow exceptions to the restriction, the defense won’t be able to use evidence of actual harm during the trial, which was a key portion of its argument, legal experts said.