HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — The Army intelligence analyst suspected of giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks claims three federal reviews concluded the leaks didn’t hurt national security and caused little damage to U.S. interests abroad.
Pfc. Bradley Manning’s civilian defense attorney, David E. Coombs, made the claims in a court filing he released publicly on Monday. He is seeking the reports — done by the White House, Defense Department and State Department — to counter statements by top federal and military leaders that the leaks could significantly damage U.S. security interests.
Coombs also asked for evidence that he said would show soldiers commonly installed unauthorized programs on their work computers, the basis for two of the 22 counts Manning faces.
And Coombs sought videotape of Manning being forced by jailers at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia to strip naked at bedtime last January, ostensibly for suicide prevention. Coombs said the video will support Manning’s claim of unlawful pretrial punishment. He was moved in April to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
The filing provides the first glimpse of strategies the defense may pursue in fighting charges that Manning, 23, leaked classified war logs, diplomatic cables and combat video to WikiLeaks while working in Iraq. If convicted, he faces up to life imprisonment, or even execution, although prosecutors say they will not seek the death penalty.
His first hearing, called an Article 32 investigation, is set to begin Dec. 16.
Military prosecutors didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Coombs’ filing.
One of the reports Coombs requested is a comprehensive White House review that he said details “the rather benign nature of the leaks and the lack of any real damage to national security.” He also asked for a report on a State Department review that he said reached similar conclusions.
The White House review, conducted by a National Security Staff senior adviser, hasn’t been made public. It led to a White House executive order last month that will create a special committee to coordinate information-sharing and ensure that classified computer networks are secure.
The White House publicly condemned the release of the WikiLeaks documents in November 2010, saying such disclosures put diplomats, intelligence workers and others at risk.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton similarly condemned the cables’ release that same month.
Coombs also asked for a report on a Defense Intelligence Agency review of the WikiLeaks documents that he said was ordered on July 29, 2010. “Specifically, the damage assessment concluded that all of the information allegedly leaked was either dated, represented low-level opinions, or was already commonly understood and known due to previous public disclosures,” Coombs wrote.
The Pentagon said in October 2010 that a special task force led by the Defense Intelligence Agency had combed the posted reports to determine what might have been compromised. Pentagon spokesman David Lapan said then that the review supported the military’s initial assessment that the materials didn’t include the most sensitive kinds of information but still posed a risk to national security.
Manning supporters say the material published by WikiLeaks exposed war crimes and triggered the recent wave of democratic uprisings in some Arab nations.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)