Prosecutors in the trial of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with passing state secrets to Wikileaks, have been ordered to hand over key documents which they have been accused of hiding from his defence team.
Judge Denise Lind gave them until 25 July to share reports from the FBI, CIA and other US government agencies which detail the affair’s impact on national security. Prosecutors must also give her a detailed account of how they are meeting legal obligations to share evidence.
The order comes after attorneys for Manning said they are being illegally prevented from seeing evidence which may damage the case against the 24-year-old Army private, who stands accused of being the source of classified computer files published on Wikileaks in 2010.
Manning faces life imprisonment if convicted of “aiding the enemy,” the most serious of the 22 charges which will be levelled against him during the forthcoming military tribunal at Fort Meade in Maryland.
He insists, however, that he made information public in order to expose corruption. And he intends to argue that the disclosures had no major effect on national security and did not “aid the enemy” as the Prosecution has claimed.
To that end, Manning’s attorneys have for months sought access to reports by the FBI, CIA, and State Department which weigh the impact of Wikileaks. They are believed to have concluded that, while the affair was highly embarrassing, it did little to directly harm long-term US interests.
The Prosecution has failed to hand over those documents, however, leading to allegations that they are illegally covering-up evidence. "Normally, these games are not played," said Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs. "You hand over discovery and let the facts speak. You don't play hide the ball, and that's what the government's been doing."
Prosecutors say they are complying with legal obligations, but that disclosure has been delayed by the sheer volume of documents they are combing through. Judge Lind yesterday ordered them to draft a “due diligence statement” detailing how exactly they are complying with disclosure law.
That statement will have to explain, among other things, how it has taken more than two years, since Manning was charged, to share what appear to be easily-accessible pieces of written evidence. The delay is one of the reasons why his tribunal, which was scheduled to begin in September, now seems likely to be postponed until next year.