FORT MEADE, Maryland: A military judge rejected Friday dropping a slew of charges against WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning and said his trial would likely be delayed by two months until November.
Judge Denise Lind denied defence motions to dismiss 10 of 22 charges against Manning for allegedly spilling a trove of US intelligence secrets to the WikiLeaks website.
The judge rejected defence claims that eight charges of unauthorised possession and disclosure of classified information were “unconstitutionally vague,” noting that the Supreme Court had rejected similar claims and had concluded there was no uncertainty in the law.
“The court finds there's no uncertainty in the statute,” she said.
On the third and final day of a first slab of hearings, Lind also denied the defence's bid to drop two additional charges that Manning exceeded his authorisation to use a Defence Department intranet system.
But she asked the government to provide more details on the charges in line with court-martial rules so that a jury can ultimately decide whether Manning broke the law.
The ruling “raises the burden on the government to prove more things,” explained a military official who requested anonymity to speak about court-martial proceedings.
“The government could dismiss (the two charges) or change them to make them survive.”
Lind said the military trial, which had been scheduled for September 21, would now be pushed back either to November or January so that more preliminary hearings could be held, the next on June 25.
Manning, 24, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of aiding the enemy by handing hundreds of thousands of classified documents — including military logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and sensitive diplomatic cables — to the WikiLeaks website. He has not yet entered a plea.
The leak triggered a diplomatic firestorm that left US officials red-faced over criticism of both allies and foes.
Manning was transferred a year ago from a military prison at Quantico, Virginia — where he had been imprisoned since July 2010 — to another in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
During Manning's eight months of solitary confinement at Quantico, he was subjected to “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,” according to a UN special rapporteur.
Manning is painted as a traitor for his alleged role in the worst ever breach of US intelligence, which embarrassed Washington and dismayed US allies.
But his supporters, some of whom have sat in the courtroom wearing T-shirts inscribed with the word “Truth,” view the soldier as a political prisoner and praise WikiLeaks for uncovering government secrets.