Secrecy shrouds pre-trial hearing in WikiLeaks case

Government secrecy reaches a new level this week in the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst who sent 700,000 classified US documents to the WikiLeaks website.

hidden May 07, 2013 08:31:30 IST
Secrecy shrouds pre-trial hearing in WikiLeaks case

Fort Meade: Government secrecy reaches a new level this week in the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst who sent 700,000 classified US documents to the WikiLeaks website.

A military judge, Col. Denise Lind, has ordered what prosecutors say is an unprecedented closed hearing on Wednesday at Fort Meade to help her decide how much of Manning's upcoming trial should be closed to protect national security.

Secrecy shrouds pretrial hearing in WikiLeaks caseAn unidentified prosecution witness will testify during that closed hearing in a "dry run".

Defence attorneys say that could allow the judge to find ways to avoid closing the courtroom to the public during the presentation of classified evidence.

Lind and attorneys for both sides have suggested there are a number of options to shield sensitive material, including closing parts of the trial; redacting documents; using written summaries as evidence to omit sensitive details; or even using code words for classified information.

The sensitive evidence includes Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables Manning has acknowledged leaking, along with official communications about those classified documents.

The government says the leaks in 2009 and 2010 endangered lives and security. Manning's lawyers contend there was little to no damage.

Lind's decision to hold the practice run out of public view has drawn mixed reactions from national security and legal experts.

Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. David Frakt, who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh law school, called it a "great idea" for minimising disruptions such as those at US military commissions' cases involving terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director of the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, said there has already been too much secrecy in the Manning case.

Until February, more than two years after his arrest, the military refused to publicly release written court filings and rulings in the case.

Manning is charged with 22 offences, including Espionage Act violations and aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence. He pleaded guilty in February to reduced charges that could send him to prison for 20 years, but military prosecutors said they would still try to convict him of the greater offences.

Associated Press

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