US: Manning helped Al-Qaeda with leaks
By Chantal Valery - FORT MEADE, Maryland
US soldier Bradley Manning aided Al-Qaeda by leaking troves of classified information to the secret-spilling website Wikileaks, military prosecutors said Thursday.
Manning, who served as a low-ranking intelligence analyst in Iraq, has previously been charged with 22 counts, including aiding the enemy.
During a pre-trial hearing, the military identified that enemy as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a lethal branch of the group based in Yemen.
Wearing his green Army uniform, the frail and bespectacled Oklahoma native was silent for nearly the entire hearing, sitting between his lawyers at a military courtroom at Fort Meade, near Baltimore, Maryland.
During the hearing, Judge Colonel Denise Lind read the answers of military prosecutors to questions put by the defense about the charges against Manning, 24.
Manning's civilian lawyer called for dismissing the case, accusing the government of "gross negligence" by bypassing military rules and refusing to provide information that could be useful to the defense.
"The government must disclose every discovery if necessary for the defense. It doesn't have to be relevant; it has to be helpful to the defense," said David Coombs. "The government doesn't understand its obligations."
Coombs asked the government to provide an assessment of the damage Manning caused to US national security by sending WikiLeaks military field reports from Afghanistan and Iraq, a quarter million State Department cables and war videos.
But military prosecutor Ashden Fein said the State Department "has not completed its damage assessment."
Fein also argued that the government met its discovery responsibilities by providing the defense with all information related to the case that was not classified.
Many of the documents Manning is accused of leaking were classified.
Fein also rejected Coombs's request for a video of interrogation sessions with Manning at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia, saying the tape did not exist.
If convicted, Manning could face life in prison for spilling the government's secrets.
The pre-trial hearing continues for a second day Friday, when a date for the trial is due to be set. The government has asked that the trial begin on August 3, while the defense wants it to begin in June.
Manning has so far declined to enter a plea on the counts he faces.
After his arrest in Iraq in August 2010, Manning was held at the Quantico prison for eight months, where a UN official said he was subjected to "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" during his solitary confinement.
But Ernesto Juan Mendez, UN special rapporteur on torture, said the alleged mistreatment ended when he was transferred in April to the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary.
Manning is now being detained at an undisclosed location close to Fort Meade but not on the base, a military source said.