An Army private charged in the biggest leak of government secrets in US history is seeking dismissal of 10 of the 22 counts he faces, contending they are either unconstitutionally vague or fail to state a prosecutable offense.
Pfc Bradley Manning's civilian defence attorney, David Coombs, posted the documents late on Wednesday on his website. A military judge will consider the motions at a pre-trial hearing June 6-8 at Fort Meade.
Manning, 24, faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. He allegedly sent to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and war logs downloaded from government computers while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in late 2009 and early 2010.
The defence contends the government used unconstitutionally vague language in eight counts charging Manning with unauthorised possession and disclosure of classified information. The motion specifically targets the government's use of the phrases, “relating to the national defence” and “to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”
Both phrases are so sweeping in their scope that they fail to provide the accused with fair warning of what conduct is prohibited, the defence said.
The defence is also seeking dismissal of two counts alleging Manning exceeded his authorised access on computers linked to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, a defence Department intranet system.
The government alleges Manning used the computers to obtain certain State Department cables that were then transmitted to a person not entitled to receive them. The defence argues that someone's purpose in accessing a computer is irrelevant to the charge of exceeding authorised access.
“Pfc. Manning clearly had authorisation to access the government computers in question,” the motion reads.
Prosecutors didn't immediately respond on Thursday to a request for comment on the filings.
The motions were dated May 10. Coombs released them under a military court order last month permitting him to publicly release defence filings, often with portions redacted for security and privacy reasons. The ruling came in response to requests from news media, including The Associated Press, for access to all records of the proceedings.
On Thursday, the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights filed a petition asking an Army appeals court to order public and media access to the government's motion papers, the court's written orders and transcripts of the proceedings.
Coombs also revealed Wednesday that Army Maj Thomas Hurley, who formerly represented a soldier charged with fatally shooting 17
Afghan villagers, has re-joined Manning's defence team.
Hurley was originally detailed to Manning's defence team in 2010. He was removed earlier this year to help defend Staff Sgt Robert Bales. He stepped aside from that job after he and Bales' civilian attorney disagreed about defence strategy.
Coombs wrote that Manning personally asked to have Hurley defend him. - Sapa-AP