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Government Moves to Prevent Bradley Manning’s Defense from Discussing Over-Classification

Cpt. Angel Overgaard, military prosecutor (Sketch by Clark Stoeckley)

The government argued two motions in the court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning intended to constrain the defense from being able to discuss motive and over-classification of information.

Manning, who the military is prosecuting for allegedly releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, faces the following charge, which is an Espionage Act charge:

In that Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, US Army, did at or near Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq, between on or about 1 November 2009 and on or about 27 May 2010, without proper authority, knowingly give intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means.

He also faces the charge of “wrongfully and wantonly” causing to be “published on the internet intelligence belonging to the United States government” and “having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet” would be “accessible to the enemy.” The “enemy” as the government has defined in court is al Qaeda.

I’ll focus on the over-classification motion and address the motive motion in a future post.

Cpt. Angel Overgaard argued discussion of over-classification should be precluded because general statements of over-classification have no bearing on whether information has been correctly charged. If the defense was able to make arguments on overclassification, “All holders of classified information could question classification and the whole system would, in fact, fold.

“Defense contends specific witnesses will say charged documents” were over-classified. This is irrelevant unless the individuals are original classification authorities (OCAs)—individuals responsible for making determinations on the classification of the charged documents.

It is “irrelevant whether the charged information could be used to cause injury to the United States,” the government argued. Also, there is no evidence the accused “knew about any alleged over-classification and, therefore, that it had any impact on the accused’s intent.” The information “does not assist in explaining the circumstances in committing of the offenses” and should not be permitted in the trial or during sentencing.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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