SEAL to testify at leak trial in private
A military judge ruled on Wednesday that a member of the team that raided Osama bin Laden's compound would be allowed to testify at the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, part of the prosecution's attempt to link the slain al-Qaida leader to material leaked by the soldier.
Manning, who pleaded guilty to some charges last month, is scheduled to face a court-martial in June for leaking 700,000 documents and other materials to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors, who have alleged that Manning's actions damaged national security, say digital media found at bin Laden's compound in Pakistan show that the terrorist leader received access to some of the WikiLeaks material through an associate.
Manning's defense team has argued that evidence obtained from the raid was not relevant to the charges against Manning, which include aiding the enemy. But on Wednesday, Army Col. Denise Lind disagreed, ruling that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the “enemy received” the material.
The witness, identified as “John Doe” and as a “DoD operator,” will testify in a closed session at an undisclosed location, Lind said, and will appear in “light disguise.”
It is presumed that the witness is a member of the Navy SEAL Team 6 that raided bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. Only one member of the raid team has been publicly identified — Matt Bissonette, who was named shortly after publishing an account of the raid under a pseudonym.
The prosecution is hoping to call more than 20 witnesses in closed session, including officials from the State Department, Defense Department, FBI and CIA. In addition to the member of the bin Laden raid team, the names of four other witnesses are being withheld. The four are also expected to testify about the material discovered at bin Laden's compound.
Last month, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 charges and provided a courtroom at Fort Meade with a detailed account of his decision to divulge the trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield incident reports to WikiLeaks. The former intelligence analyst said that he was seeking to spark a debate about what he described as the nation's obsession with “killing and capturing people.”
But the prosecution is seeking to prove 22 additional charges against Manning, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.