Claim: WikiLeaks suspect can’t get a fair trial

Bradley Manning’s defense team has accused the US government of deliberately attempting to prevent the former army intelligence analyst from receiving a fair trial. 

Pfc. Manning faces a total of 22 charges – including aiding the enemy – after thousands of classified documents allegedly downloaded by the soldier ended up on WikiLeaks.

According to Manning’s civilian lawyer David Coombs, prosecutors are making an “an outright misrepresentation” to the court over evidence the defense has attempted to gains access through disclosure. 

The current dispute between the prosecution and defense apparently revolves around an internal investigation by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX), which was conducted to assess the WikiLeaks cables fallout. Indeed, various media reports indicate the leaks may have been responsible for certain “pockets” of short-damage around the world, but were generally more embarrassing than harmful.

“It was abundantly clear that ONCIX had some form of inquiry into the harm from the leaks,” Coombs wrote in legal documents obtained by the UK-based Guardian. “[However], the government switched definitions around arbitrarily so as to avoid disclosing this discovery to the defense.”

Coombs also noted prosecutors told the court on March 21 that “Oncix [had] not produced any interim or final damage assessment” regarding WikiLeaks – a statement the lawyer believes to have been  inaccurate at the time it was made.  

“The defense submits [this] was an outright misrepresentation. ONCIX was collecting information from various agencies in late 2010 to assess what damage, if any, was occasioned by the leaks. So how could it be that ONCIX neither had an investigation nor a damage assessment?” Coombs asked rhetorically. 

“There is no way that the defense can adequately prepare its case. The government should not be able to circumvent its discovery obligations for two years, then dump discovery on the defense last-minute, and expect that there will be a fair battle. Indeed, the defense believes that this was the intention of the government – to defeat its adversary by adopting untenable litigation positions designed to frustrate discovery.”

Although the Pentagon appears set on making an example out of Manning, a number of organizations, activists and artists have leapt to the defense of Manning, claiming the Pfc. shouldn’t be punished for his role in leaking secret documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, many have questioned whether the Pentagon is even capable of offering Manning a fair trial.

“I don’t think anyone disagrees that the government has enough evidence to start a court martial proceeding. The question is whether they should be proceeding,” Dan Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, told The Guardian back in December 2011.

“It’s outrageous for two reasons. How can there be a fair court martial when the commander in chief, president Obama himself, pronounced that he is guilty [of breaking the law]? Secondly, he has been subjected to 10 and a half months of clearly abusive treatment that in my opinion was immoral and illegal.”