The defense attorney representing alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning plans to call up to 50 witnesses at a pre-trial hearing scheduled to occur next month in Maryland, as well as introduce a number of unspecified motions, according to the organizers of a support group for the soldier.
The witnesses could include Daniel Ellsberg, famed Pentagon Papers leaker, who would talk about the benefit Manning’s alleged leaks provided to the public, as well as technical experts who would speak to the actual evidence on which the charges against Manning are based. The latter might include assessments of forensic evidence from classified networks and databases that contained the sensitive documents Manning is charged with downloading and leaking.
The information on the defense’s tactics came at a press conference on Tuesday held by representatives of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Jeff Paterson, an organizer with the Network, said it’s unclear how many witnesses the court will allow to testify, but said that Manning’s defense attorney David E. Coombs intends to release a complete list of the witnesses if the court blocks him from calling a substantial number of them. Paterson said that prosecutors have not released a list of witnesses they plan to call.
Coombs was unavailable for comment and has indicated he will not be speaking with any media prior to the hearing.
The pre-trial hearing, to be held Dec. 16 at Ft. Meade outside Baltimore, Maryland, is expected to last about five days but could spill over into January, with a recess for the December holidays, if the court allows a large number of witnesses to testify.
The hearing will be the first time that Manning’s defense team will be able to hear the details of the prosecution’s case against the former army intelligence analyst.
Both the prosecution and defense will be able to call witnesses to the hearing and cross-examine them. The defense will also receive copies of the criminal investigation files and witness statements.
Paterson told reporters that the defense team has “received the vast majority of the discovery that’s needed to move forward on this case” since Manning’s confinement in May 2010, but said that “there is some more sensitive information that is still being withheld from the defense that is expected to be released at some point soon.”
He said the chat logs believed to be between Manning and former hacker Adrian Lamo, in which Manning allegedly confessed to leaking data to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks, are “suspect as far as evidence in a military court,” and prosecutors will therefore likely have to rely on forensic evidence.
Generally at pre-trial hearings, the defense team refrains from revealing information that might tip off the prosecution to their defense strategy. But Paterson said that defense attorney Coombs “is going to present a pretty vigorous defense of 50 different angles on the charges.”