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Bradley Manning trial: Defence open case with leaked footage of US helicopter attack

Lawyers for Bradley Manning, the US Army private who gave classified information to WikiLeaks, have opened their defence at his court-martial with leaked video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad.

Manning has admitted leaking the 39-minute cockpit video showing a 2007 attack that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded that the troops reasonably mistook the journalists for enemy combatants.

The video is the basis of an espionage charge alleging that Manning had unauthorised possession of national defence information.

WikiLeaks posted it in April 2010 under the title "Collateral Murder".

The defence called its first witness, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Ehresman, to establish the wide authorised access Manning and other intelligence analysts had. CWO2 Ehresman testified that Manning and others he worked with in Iraq compiled reports based on a broad spectrum of information available on a classified computer network.

"We got them wherever we could," he said.

Earlier today, as the trial entered its sixth week, Manning's defence team asked the military judge to acquit him of as many as seven charges for lack of incriminating evidence. The government has until Thursday to respond, then Colonel Denise Lind will rule.

The defence seeks acquittal on the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, a computer fraud charge and five counts of theft. Details of the motions were not discussed in court.

Manning faces 21 contested counts. The former intelligence analyst pleaded guilty in February to reduced versions of some charges. He faces up to 20 years for the admitted offences.

The defence has said it intends to call 25 witnesses to refute the government's charges. The 10 prospective witnesses today include Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, who has written that leaking something to WikiLeaks is no different than leaking it to the New York Times. Mr Benkler's testimony could refute the government's assertion that Manning knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy because he knew al Qaida members would see what WikiLeaks posted on its website.

Another prospective defence witness, retired Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, is likely to give evidence to refute charges stemming from Manning's acknowledged leak of Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment records. Col Morris was the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo from 2005-07.

Manning said in a February 28 courtroom statement that the assessment briefs were "not very important from either an intelligence or national security standpoint".

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