The defence team in the case against PFC Bradley Manning gained some ground getting the US government to turn over material related to their case.  Manning is accused of taking thousands of classified US government documents from a secure computer and providing them to the whistleblower website Wikileaks.

At a hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland on Wednesday, Judge Denise Lind asked the prosecution what material collected and analyzed by nearly a dozen government agencies, committees, and review boards has been turned over to the defence and wasn’t satisfied with the answer.

Lind ordered the prosecution to provide the defence with the State Department’s preliminary damage assessment.  The government sought to keep that information because it wasn’t a final report. 

The defence complained that the CIA’s damage assessment was all classified. Lind said that wasn’t sufficient and said she’d review the assessment to determine how much of it can be turned over to the defence.  She also ordered the government to identify relevant information and pass it along.

Defence attorney David Coombs has decried how little of the government’s evidence against his client has been provided by the prosecution. Lead prosecutor Major Ashden Fine said the FBI gave 3,475 documents related to Manning to the prosecution. They’ve provided only 636 to the defence.

Later in the day, the judge pressed Major Fine about the documents that hadn’t been handed over to the defence.  Fine maintained the defence hasn’t asked for specific information but broadly every document related to the case.  Fine said, “This is a tactic to slow this prosecution down.”  But the judge didn’t agree. She called it a circular argument, that the defence can’t make a specific request for information if they don’t know what information is available. 

Coombs said once they have the all the government documents, they need two to three months to incorporate that into their case.  Judge Lind said, “I’m not interested in trying this case before the defence has a chance to prepare.”

Manning spent the hearing sitting quietly and frequently twirled a pen between his hands. 

On Thursday, the court will hear from the first witnesses. The defence has called three State Department witnesses to answer questions about the information they’ve provided in the case. Manning’s case is scheduled to go to trial in September.