The Guardian reports: The US government will have to prove that the WikiLeaks source, Bradley Manning, had “reason to believe” that his disclosure of state secrets could be harmful to the US and beneficial to foreign nations, the judge presiding over the soldier’s court martial ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling from Colonel Denise Lind, sitting in a military court at Fort Meade in Maryland, raises the burden of proof for the prosecutors who are trying to have the US soldier jailed for life for his actions in passing hundreds of thousands of classified state documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Manning has pleaded guilty to the leak, but only to lesser charges that carry an upper sentence of 20 years in military jail.
He has pleaded not guilty to the most serious charge, that he knowingly “aided the enemy”. The charge carries a theoretical death sentence, but the prosecution has indicated it will seek life in military custody instead.
Manning is set to go to full court martial on 3 June, with the trial expected to last for 12 weeks. The scale of the WikiLeaks breach of US intelligence – including war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, videos of US helicopter attacks, as well as a mountain of diplomatic cables from around the world – coupled with the seriousness of the charges, will ensure the trial will be the most high-profile prosecution of a leaker in a generation.
In a separate ruling, Lind has given the prosecution the green light to call witnesses who will testify that the WikiLeaks material actually reached “the enemy”. The defence, led by a civilian lawyer, David Coombs, had tried to preclude any evidence relating to the end-use of the leaked documents and videos on grounds that it was irrelevant and potentially prejudicial to Manning.
But the judge found that it was relevant, particularly to the key prosecution accusation that the soldier “aided the enemy”. She listed a number of hostile groups as “the enemy” in this case, including al-Qaida, al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, and an unspecified number of other organisations referred to only by code name.