HAGERSTOWN — An Army private charged in the biggest leak of government secrets in U.S. history is seeking dismissal of 10 of the 22 counts he faces, contending they are either unconstitutionally vague or fail to state a prosecutable offense.
Pfc. Bradley Manning’s civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, posted the documents late Wednesday on his website. A military judge will consider the motions at a pre-trial hearing June 6-8 at Fort Meade near Baltimore.
Manning, a 24-year-old Crescent, Okla., native, faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. He allegedly sent to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and war logs downloaded from government computers while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in late 2009 and early 2010.
The defense contends the government used unconstitutionally vague language in eight counts charging Manning with unauthorized possession and disclosure of classified information. The motion specifically targets the government’s use of the phrases, “relating to the national defense” and “to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”
Both phrases are so sweeping in their scope that they fail to provide the accused with fair warning of what conduct is prohibited, the defense said.
The defense is also seeking dismissal of two counts alleging Manning exceeded his authorized access on computers linked to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, a Defense Department intranet system.
The government alleges Manning used the computers to obtain certain State Department cables that were then transmitted to a person not entitled to receive them. The defense argues that a someone’s purpose in accessing a computer is irrelevant to the charge of exceeding authorized access.
“Pfc. Manning clearly had authorization to access the government computers in question,” the motion reads.
Prosecutors didn’t immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment on the filings.
The motions were dated May 10. Coombs released them under a military court order last month permitting him to publicly release defense filings, often with portions redacted for security and privacy reasons. The ruling came in response to requests from news media, including The Associated Press, for access to all records of the proceedings.
On Thursday, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a petition asking the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to order public and media access to the government’s motion papers, the court’s written orders and transcripts of the proceedings.
Coombs also revealed Wednesday that Army Maj. Thomas Hurley, who formerly represented a soldier charged with fatally shooting 17 Afghan villagers, has joined Manning’s defense team. Coombs wrote that Manning personally asked to have Hurley defend him.
Hurley was assigned earlier this year to help defend Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He stepped aside last month in what Bales’ civilian attorney said was a mutual decision after they disagreed about defense strategy.
Manning’s team also includes Capt. Joshua Tooman.
Manning is in pre-trial detention at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.