Manning’s lawyer challenges Twitter and Web evidence

The court-martial of the U.S. soldier accused of providing reams of classified documents to WikiLeaks in a case illustrating the challenge of keeping secrets in the digital age must decide whether tweets and Web pages can be admitted as evidence.

Lawyers for PFC Bradley Manning, 25, who is accused with providing more than 700,000 files to the anti-secrecy Web site in the biggest breach of classified U.S. data in the nation’s history, argued on Tuesday that Twitter postings offered by prosecutors do not meet the court’s standards.

“Anyone can create a Web page . . . that looks like WikiLeaks or that looks like Twitter,” argued the defense attorney, Capt. Joshua Tooman, when the government sought to admit a May 7, 2010, tweet from WikiLeaks seeking military Internet addresses, and the Web page of the Internet archive site that showed a 2009 WikiLeaks “Most Wanted” list of items it was seeking from the public.

Tooman said a government investigator had accessed the tweets indirectly, through Google, rather than directly through Twitter or WikiLeaks. He said the evidence failed to meet the test of authenticity since there was no way of knowing what the Web site looked like when the tweet or page was published.

Prosecutors argued those tweets, as well as one on Jan. 8, 2010, from WikiLeaks saying it had an encrypted video of a U.S. air attack, were evidence of a leak and should be admissible.

The judge, Col. Denise Lind, did not rule on the evidence. She ordered the trial into recess until a status hearing next Tuesday. The trial is scheduled to resume June 26.

Manning was an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010 when WikiLeaks published the classified information. He faces 21 charges, the most serious being aiding the enemy, and faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

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