As noted here Tuesday, the military judge presiding over Pfc. Bradley Manning’s court-martial ruled that the soldier had suffered unlawful pretrial punishment and for this would have his sentence reduced by 112 days if he is convicted. However, the same judge ruled on Wednesday that the start of Manning’s trial be pushed back another three months — which means the accused whistle-blower will spend almost as much time as his sentence reduction in extended pretrial detention.
According to reports from Fort Meade where Manning’s pretrial hearings are again underway, Judge Col. Denise Lind has rescheduled the trial for June to allow extra time to deal with classified information. The trial had previously been scheduled for February and then March.
On Wednesday, the second day of a new round of pretrial motion hearings, Manning’s prosecutors attempted to invoke Civil War-era examples to further their case that the soldier is guilty of aiding the enemy, for which he could face life in prison. According to an AP report, the prosecutors compared Manning’s passing documents to WikiLeaks to the case of Pvt. Henry Vanderwater, a Union soldier convicted in 1863 of indirectly aiding the enemy by giving an Alexandria, Va., newspaper a command roster that was then published.
David Coombs, Manning’s defense attorney, was swift to dismiss such a comparison. The AP reported, “Coombs countered that the Civil War-era cases involved coded messages disguised as advertisements. He said all modern cases involve military members who gave the enemy information directly.”
Coombs noted, “There’s been no case in the entire history of military jurisprudence that dealt with somebody providing information to a legitimate journalistic organization and having them publish it and that involved dealing with the enemy.”
The court also discussed the prosecution’s motion to disallow evidence in Manning’s trial that would show that the U.S. overclassifies information. Evidence of overclassification would help Manning’s defense argue that their client selectively leaked information he believed should not be classified and could not help the enemy.
Judge Lind told the court she will rule later in January on the motions regarding whether evidence of overclassification and Manning’s motives — which would aid the defense — will be permitted in the June trial.