Defense attorneys for Army whistleblower Bradley Manning have rested their case after calling three witnesses over 10 days. The defense’s final witness, Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler, warned that finding Manning guilty of “aiding the enemy” for handing material to WikiLeaks could lead to similar charges against any media outlet publishing online.
Manning attorney David Coombs also revealed in court a key counterpoint to U.S. claims that Manning’s leak helped al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. According to Coombs, previously undisclosed testimony shows bin Laden asked his aides to see the leaked WikiLeaks material only after he saw the U.S. government openly describing WikiLeaks as a group helpful to U.S. foes. Coombs said: “[The] rhetoric is what drives the enemy to actually go look at WikiLeaks, not the actual publication of the information.”
Manning never took the stand to testify in his own defense but did give a lengthy statement at his pretrial hearing earlier this year. The trial continues next week with arguments over defense motions to have seven of Manning’s 22 counts dismissed.