The defense will kick off its case Monday morning in the court martial of US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, who stands accused of leaking more than 700,000 files, many of which included classified information, to Wikileaks.  The prosecution rested its case last week in more than 20 counts against Manning, including charges related to computer fraud, espionage and aiding the enemy.

Defense attorneys are expected to present a case that Manning did not intentionally aid the enemy and that his decision to leak the files was perhaps naïve, but well-intentioned.  Some experts say that argument will have more importance during the sentencing phase.

From NY Daily News:

When Manning’s lead attorney David Coombs opens the defense on Monday, experts interviewed by Reuters said his best option was to show that Manning thought he was doing the right thing and never intended to damage the United States.

Geoffrey Corn, a professor at the South Texas School of Law in Houston, said the judge may be swayed by the “misguided motive” strategy based on the argument that Manning meant no harm to the nation.

“He didn’t have a subjective illicit motive. Subjectively, he convinced himself he was doing right,” he said.


Jeffrey Addicott, a law professor at St. Mary’s University Law School in San Antonio, said he expected the defense to stress that the Crescent, Oklahoma, native did not intend to harm the United States but that its argument would not succeed.

Addicott, who heads the school’s Center for Terrorism Law, said in an email that the bulk of the defense case would come at sentencing, “where they will argue ‘unintended consequences’ and sorrow for what he did.”

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the defense could argue Manning was not aware that the classified material was potentially sensitive since access to it lacked safeguards. It could also contend there had been an overbroad labeling of files as secret, she said.

Manning has already admitted to leaking the classified material.  He offered in February to plead guilty to ten of the lesser charges related to espionage and computer fraud counts, but prosecutors rejected the offer.

The prosecution last week presented evidence that it contends supports the aiding the enemy charge, citing references to some of the documents leaked by Manning that ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.  It has also sought to prove that Manning’s actions were in response to Wikileaks’ public solicitation for such information, as presented in the prosecution’s opening statement.

Meanwhile, the trial is open to the public and Manning’s supporters are  planning a vigil on behalf of the Army private as defense proceedings get underway Monday morning.  They have also launched a support campaign on Twitter under the hashtag #defendbrad, which will presumably cover Monday’s activities.

Unofficial court transcripts are available daily at the trial’s transcripts page on the Freedom of the Press Foundation website.