On the first day of the latest round of pre-trial hearings in the Bradley Manning court martial proceedings, military judge Col. Denise Lind ruled that the government would be permitted to use evidence that al-Qaida and specifically Osama bin Laden “received” material published by WikiLeaks as a part of the prosecution’s most serious charge — that Manning “aided the enemy.”
Reporting from the Fort Meade courtroom, Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola noted, Lind “wholly rejected the arguments the defense had made that evidence involving receipt of information by al-Qaida or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) would be prejudicial to proceedings.”
However, Lind also ruled that the onus will be on the government to prove that Manning aided the enemy. As Gosztola reported:
The judge concluded the government musts prove they [WikiLeaks documents] were given to the enemy or received and “evidence of circumstances surrounding receipt is relevant to whether he did give it to the enemy.” Also, “circumstantial evidence” is “relevant to prove if he knew or did not know he was dealing with the enemy,” and “receipt” by enemy is “relevant” to whether he “caused to be published” what the government considers to be intelligence.
… No evidence has presented yet to indicate that Manning gave information WikiLeaks and then someone within WikiLeaks turned around and passed that information to an Al Qaeda member. The government is making its entire argument on the fact that it was published to the Internet and accessible to the “enemy” and, therefore, Manning “aided the enemy.”
Commentators have rightly noted that were the government’s “aiding the enemy” arguments to be accepted by the judge at trial, the repercussions for journalists publishing information that may one day prove of some unforeseen use to U.S. enemies would be chilling. Judge Lind has, with Wednesday’s decision, made the burden of proof for the “aiding the enemy” charge significantly high. As independent journalist Alex O’Brien (also ever-present in the Fort Meade press gallery) wrote, government must now prove that Pfc. Manning acted “with reason to believe such info could be used to the injury of the US or to advantage of any foreign nation.”