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Bradley Manning lawyers quiz State Department officials about WikiLeaks fallout

Patrick Semansky / AP

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, right, is escorted to a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Thursday.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET: FORT MEADE, Md. -- Two State Department officials testified Thursday morning in a military court that they took part in efforts to control damage after hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents were leaked to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

Their testimony came in the second day of a three-day pre-trial hearing as Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s defense team tried to compel the government to turn over damage assessment reports that resulted from the 2010 leaks. His lawyers also are seeking the dismissal of 10 of the 22 counts against Manning, accused of leaking the documents.


Manning's civilian attorney, David Coombs, cross-examined both State officials about the department’s response to the crisis.

Operations Center Director Rena Bitter testified that a working group formed Nov. 28, 2010 -- the day 220 redacted cables were published online and in international newspapers -- and operated 24/7 for three weeks. Embassies and consulates around the world assessed security risks in the wake of the leaks and submitted them to a chiefs of mission review group. In total, four damage control task forces were formed, Bitter said.

The former director of the Office of Management Policy Right Sizing and Information Policy, Marguerite Coffey, described on the stand her leadership role in the mitigation group created to study the policy flaws that contributed to the initial leak and the "extensive records" that the task force kept on file.

Both witnesses testified that they knew of an official State Department damage assessment report but had never seen it.

Manning, a 24-year-old Crescent, Okla., native, 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 classified diplomatic cables and war logs downloaded from government computers while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in late 2009 and early 2010.

Also Thursday morning, the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, denied a motion that would require the government to identify exculpatory evidence in the material it discloses to the defense. Citing a lack of United States Code of Military Justice precedent, Lind ruled that although the prosecution has an obligation to turn over “Brady material” to the defense, it is not required to provide the defendant with the location of the relevant information when it discloses evidence.

"Brady material" refers to evidence known to the prosecution that is favorable to the defense and material in establishing the defendant's guilt or innocence. The Supreme Court ruled in Brady v. Maryland that withholding this evidence violates the defendant's right to due process.

The pretrial hearing began Wednesday and is expected to conclude Friday.

Earlier: Military court tells US to give records to WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning

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