The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, ruled that general issues of motive were not relevant to the trial stage of the court martial, and must be held back until Manning either entered a plea or was found guilty, at which point it could be used in mitigation to lessen the sentence. The ruling is a blow to the defence as it will make it harder for the soldier’s legal team to argue he was acting as a whistleblower and not as someone who knowingly damaged US interests at a time of war.
“This is another effort to attack the whistleblower defence,” said Nathan Fuller, a spokesman for the Bradley Manning support network, after the hearing.
The judge also blocked the defence from presenting evidence designed to show that WikiLeaks caused little or no damage to US national security. Coombs has devoted considerable time and energy trying to extract from US government agencies their official assessments of the impact of WikiLeaks around the world, only to find that he is now prevented from using any of the information he has obtained.
The purpose of this trial is not justice: it is to publicly punish and excoriate Bradley Manning, in the hopes that it will dissuade any future whistle blowing.