Bradley Manning Attorney Wants to Depose Rejected Witnesses

The defense team for WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning is seeking to depose several witnesses that the court refused to allow at a pretrial hearing last month in an apparent effort to undermine the government’s charges that Manning leaked damaging classified information.

Attorney David E. Coombs is seeking to depose six witnesses (.pdf) who were involved in determining the classification level of materials that Manning is alleged to have leaked to WikiLeaks.

Coombs writes in his request to the Army Court that the witnesses were “essential” to the proceeding and should have been allowed to testify at Manning’s pretrial hearing. Only 12 of some 48 witnesses that the defense requested appeared at the hearing after the court rejected most of the defense witnesses on grounds that they would present irrelevant testimony or testimony that was redundant to statements that government witnesses were expected to make. Defense witnesses who were also on the government’s witness list were allowed to appear.

Although the names of the witnesses are redacted in the deposition request, they include someone who conducted a classification review of three Army Apache gun videos and who is expected to state that none of the videos were classified at the time they were allegedly leaked, according to Coombs.

Manning is suspected of providing at least two Army videos to WikiLeaks — one, the so-called “Collateral Murder” video that WikiLeaks published in April 2010, and another known as the “Garani airstrike video,” which WikiLeaks claims it possesses but has never released. Mention of a third video, also related to the Garani airstrike incident, appeared in testimony at Manning’s pre-trial hearing. The latter video was described not as a combat video, however, but as a reconnaissance video that simply showed footage taken from an airship flying over a combat region.

Other witnesses requested for oral deposition conducted classification reviews of two PowerPoint slide presentations, U.S. State Department cables and databases containing hundreds of thousands of records pertaining to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Coombs wants to question them about how they made their classification determinations as well as the impact the leaking of the documents had on national security.

Coombs made it clear in his statements at the pre-trial hearing that part of his defense strategy was aimed at mitigating Manning’s punishment by showing that the leaks had no substantial impact on the nation’s security.