The decision came on Friday, the 12th day of the Manning court martial. In a blow to the defense, Judge Col. Denise Lind allowed the two tweets to be admitted as circumstantial evidence against Manning, which could help prove some of the most serious charges against him, including aiding the enemy, stealing government property, and violating the Espionage Act, as reported by the Huffington Post.
The tweets date back to 2010 and, according to the prosecution, show that Manning was following WikiLeaks directions, and conspiring with Julian Assange when he started perusing the military network before leaking a treasure trove of documents to the pro-transparency organization. (The information would become WikiLeaks' most famous revelations.)
Have encrypted videos of US bomb strikes on civilians http://bit.ly/wlafghan2 we need super computer time http://ljsf.org/
WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 8, 2010
We would like a list of as many .mil email addresses as possible. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or submit
WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 7, 2010
The prosecution argued in a brief (.PDF) that the WikiLeaks tweet regarding the decryption of the airstrike video "demonstrates WikiLeaks plan to compromise military information," a plan "openly and publicly advertised on Twitter," which is "relevant to the accused's knowledge of the scope of the disclosure of compromised information."
How much importance the judge will ultimately give to these tweets remains to be seen, especially since the government failed to prove that Manning had actually seen them at the time.
The judge's ruling came almost as a surprise, as it appeared the prosecution had difficulty authenticating the tweets, proving that they actually came from WikiLeaks.
Special Agent Mark Mander, a witness for the prosecution, was called in to testify to the tweets authenticity, explaining that he unsuccessfully tried to retrieve them directly on Twitter by scrolling down on WikiLeaks' feed.
"There's like 20,000 tweets," Mander said, according to HuffPo. "I scrolled and I scrolled."
The heart of the authentication problem was that the Wikileaks URL has changed since 2010, after Twitter's switch to HTTPS. Nevertheless, Lind found the tweets' origin plausible because, despite the changes to the URL, they appeared authentic considering the WikiLeaks logo, the text of the tweets, their time and date, as well as their serial number, HuffPo reported.
Friday marked the end of the trial's fourth week. Manning has already pleaded guilty to 10 of 22 charges, admitting to being a WikiLeaks source, but denying the most serious charges. These include "aiding the enemy," which could lead to life imprisonment.
At the beginning of the trial, the defense and the prosecution tried to frame Manning in two very different ways, as both an idealist whistleblower and as a traitor. The court martial, which is expected to last 12 weeks, will continue with the U.S. government finishing up its case shortly. It will then be the defense's turn. The future of the 25-year-old soldier hangs in the balance.
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