A judge is to see for herself how the US assessed the damage inflicted upon the government by Bradley Manning’s WikiLeaks activities. Manning’s lawyer says the case against the soldier should be dropped as Washington is still withholding evidence.
The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, has ordered the State Department to release to her official documents assessing how damaging the leak of thousands of US government cables had been to American national interests and security.
Following the ruling, the State Department said it still finds the leak detrimental to the US.
"Our view of the entire WikiLeaks incident has not changed at all in terms of the negative effects. There was enormous turbulence in many of our bilateral relationships when this happened and there have been impacts on individuals," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
Earlier in the day, Manning appealed to the judge that the charges against him be dropped. His lawyer, David Coombs, says the case against the US soldier is based on "irreparable prejudice" as the government will not release evidence.
Coombs has been pressing military prosecutors to hand over the official damage assessments for months. On Tuesday, he remarked that the prosecutors appeared to be intentionally delaying the turnover of the documents.
Evidence meant to be introduced in court or used to prove a charge should be handed over to the defense team before the trial begins, Coombs stressed in a procedural hearing that marked the beginning of three days of pre-trial motions.
Prosecutors say there is still "time and resources" to provide evidence to Manning before August, when the proceeding are due to start. They are currently guarding access to the reports, citing national security.
Suggestions around the disputed assessments say that, in the official opinion of the US government, WikiLeaks caused very little harm to the US. This will be hard to find out, as the release of the documents to the judge will not necessarily make them public.
Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is accused on 22 counts, founded on his downloading of over 700,000 classified files from the military's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, while serving in the Army's 10th Mountain Division in Iraq. This includes the notorious video of a US helicopter attacking civilians in Iraq.
The soldier, tried by a court martial in Fort Meade, Maryland, faces life behind bars if convicted of aiding the enemy or WikiLeaks in this context. Army prosecutors have indicated they will not invoke the death penalty.