FORT MEADE, Md. - A military judge refused on Thursday to dismiss the most serious charge against an Army private accused in the biggest leak of government secrets in U.S. history.
Col. Denise Lind rejected a defense motion to throw out the charge of "aiding the enemy" during a pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. It was one of several motions seeking to dismiss some or all of the charges, but Lind left all 22 counts against Manning in place.
In seeking dismissal of the most serious offense, defense attorney David Coombs had argued that the charge didn't properly allege that Manning intended to help al-Qaeda when he allegedly sent hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war reports and State Department diplomatic cables to the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks.
Manning stated in an online chat with a confidant-turned-informant that he leaked the information because, "I want people to see the truth."
Prosecutors had argued that Manning knew the enemy would see the material when it appeared on WikiLeaks, regardless of his intentions.
Lind said Thursday that prosecutors must prove during trial that Manning knew he was giving information to the enemy.
If they fail to do so, Lind indicated she would consider a defense motion to dismiss the charge.
Jeff Paterson, a leader of the Bradley Manning Support Group, said he was disappointed by the ruling but encouraged by what he called the "high hurdle" prosecutors must clear.
"Everything we know about Bradley Manning is the complete opposite of this charge - nothing about aiding the enemy but everything about aiding the public's understanding of an unpopular war," Paterson said.
Manning hasn't entered a plea to any of the charges. He also hasn't yet decided whether he will be tried by a judge or a jury. His trial is set for Sept. 21 through Oct. 12.
Earlier Thursday, Lind rejected a motion to consolidate some charges that the defense said were duplicative. She said the defense could raise the motion again for sentencing purposes if Manning is convicted.