Prosecution, defense rest in Manning hearing

Chris Healy | Newsgathering | Feature | December 21, 2011

Military prosecutors and the defense have concluded their presentation of evidence in the Article 32 hearing of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, and closing arguments will begin Thursday, the Washington Post reports.

The prosecution called as a witness Adrian Lamo, the hacker to whom Manning had confided leaking thousands of government documents to the website Wikileaks, the Post reports. Manning called only two witnesses. The leak is the largest release of classified information since the Pentagon Papers.

An Article 32 hearing is used to determine if sufficient evidence exists to proceed to a full trial. Manning faces 22 charges, including violation of the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy.

On Monday morning, observer access was restricted for at least portion of the hearing, while the court discussed classified information, according to the New York Daily News.. Steven Zansberg, a media attorney at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz who has fought for media access to military and other government proceedings and is not involved in the Manning case, told the Reporters Committee that the standard for closing a military Article 32 hearing to the public is the same as closing a preliminary hearing in a civilian criminal case: there must be a compelling interest in preventing the contents of the hearing from being made public, and there must be no less restrictive means of achieving that interest. According to Zansberg, courts have said that a "scalpel approach" must be used in determining what information should not be disclosed to the public, meaning that courts must be careful to limit public access to no more information than is necessary.

Moreover, Zansberg added that it is not necessarily the case that because information has been disclosed it is no longer classified. Despite the fact that the classified information discussed may already be part of the public record due to the Wikileaks disclosures, the information can remain classified.

Manning's defense team has taken an unorthodox approach in attempting to show that Manning was suffering from gender identity disorder, a recognized medical disorder, in the period leading up to the release, MSNBC reports. The defense has argued that Manning created a female online alter ego, had taken a photograph of himself in woman's clothing and attached it to a letter to a commanding officer explaining that he felt he was unable to perform his duties because of the disorder, and that he had investigated books on "female facial reconstructive surgery," according to MSNBC.

David Coombs, who represents Manning, did not return a call to the Reporters Committee requesting comment.