Col. Denise Lind also indicated she will postpone Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial, currently set to start Sept. 21, to November or January because of procedural delays.
Manning is charged with knowingly aiding al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula by causing the online publication of hundreds of thousands of classified State Department diplomatic cables and Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, along with some battlefield video clips. Authorities say the 24-year-old Crescent, Okla., native downloaded the files from a Defense Department network and sent them to the secret-sharing website WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.
He hasn’t entered a plea to the charges.
On Friday, the third day of a pretrial hearing, Lind rejected a defense argument that the government used unconstitutionally vague language in charging Manning with eight counts of unauthorized possession and disclosure of classified information. The defense targeted the phrases, “relating to the national defense” and “to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”
Lind disagreed with a defense argument that the phrases are too broad to provide fair warning of what conduct is prohibited.
The judge also refused to dismiss two counts alleging Manning exceeded his authority to access computers linked to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, a Defense Department intranet system.
The government alleges Manning used the computers to obtain information that was then transmitted to a person not entitled to receive them. The defense argued that Manning’s job description clearly entitled him to use the computers, and that his purpose in using them was irrelevant to the charge.
Lind agreed with the defense’s interpretation of the law but said she hadn’t seen enough evidence to decide whether to dismiss the charge. Her ruling raises the bar for what prosecutors must prove to win convictions on those counts.
Manning faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted aiding the enemy. He has been in pretrial confinement since he was charged in May 2010. He has been held since April 2011 at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
His purported motivation for the leaks, according to logs of his alleged online chats with a confidant-turned-government-informant, was that he wanted to expose the truth after becoming disillusioned about American military policies.
In previous proceedings, the defense, led by civilian attorney David Coombs, has highlighted Manning’s frustration with being a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were prohibited from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces. Defense lawyers also have contended that Manning’s apparent disregard for security rules during stateside training and his increasingly violent outbursts after deployment were red flags that should have prevented him from having access to classified material. They also maintain that the material WikiLeaks published did little harm to national security.