Dec 18, 2011

FORT MEADE, Md. - A defense lawyer for Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of aiding WikiLeaks, began a frontal attack during Manning’s first court appearance yesterday morning, claiming that the Army’s investigating officer at the evidentiary hearing was biased and should recuse himself from the case.

The lawyer, David Coombs, said Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, the investigating officer who works as a Justice Department prosecutor in civilian life, was preventing the defense from calling witnesses to show little harm was done by the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents provided to WikiLeaks.

“All this stuff has been leaked,’’ Coombs said. “A year and a half later, where’s the danger? Where’s the harm?’’

Almanza declined to remove himself from the case, saying he did not currently supervise criminal cases in his job at the Justice Department, which involves child abuse and obscenity, not national security.

Coombs appealed the recusal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and asked it to halt the hearing until it could rule. A decision on a postponement could come as early as today.

By new york times
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