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Defense wins round on WikiLeaks helicopter video

FORT MEADE — Lawyers for Army Pfc. Bradley Manning can offer evidence contradicting the government’s assertion that he revealed classified information in a leaked battlefield video from Iraq, a military judge said Thursday.

The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, took judicial notice of the document during Manning’s court-martial at Fort Meade in Maryland. Judicial notice is a preliminary step toward admitting evidence.

The document is an assessment by a former U.S. Central Command official of video showing a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed at least eight people, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. His assessment was that the video should be unclassified.

That contradicted evidence offered by prosecutors. They have presented an assessment from a Pentagon official that the video revealed military tactics, techniques and procedures.

Manning has acknowledged he gave the video to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks but denied revealing national defense information.

Manning is being tried at Forte Meade Army base outside Baltimore on charges including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.

The developments came as prosecutors were focusing Thursday on U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning has admitted sending to WikiLeaks. The proceedings were continuing during the afternoon.

On Wednesday, a former State Department official testified on cross-examination that the agency’s computer network would have given a soldier with Manning’s top-secret security clearance unrestricted access to the cables. The government alleges he stole them.

The cables included candid and sometimes embarrassing assessments of foreign leaders and governments. State Department officials say the disclosures endangered lives and threatened national security.

Manning has said the cables exposed U.S. hypocrisy. His supporters said a leaked cable revealing America’s half-hearted support for Tunisia’s government helped trigger the Arab Spring uprisings.