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WikiLeaks suspect barred from citing evidence by judge

FORT MEADE, Maryland -- A U.S. military judge on Thursday barred WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning from citing evidence at his trial alleging he caused no serious harm to the United States when he released a massive trove of secret government documents.

In a major blow to Manning's defense, Judge Denise Lind said what happened after the classified files were disclosed is irrelevant as to whether the U.S. soldier committed the crime of leaking sensitive information knowing that it “could” cause damage to America's national security.

What occurred afterwards “was not knowable to the accused” prior to the leak and therefore not pertinent to determining his guilt or innocence, said Lind, reading out her ruling at a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, northeast of Washington.

Lind, a U.S. Army colonel, said prospective jurors might be “confused” if the trial allowed for a discussion of potential harm caused by the leaks.

The judge left open the possibility that the defense could argue it needed to present information related to the effect of the leaks when cross-examining prosecution witnesses. But she said she would take up defense requests on a case-by-case basis.

Manning's civilian lawyer David Coombs had told the court on Wednesday that banning such evidence would mean the defense would be “cut off at the knees.”

The decision only applied to the trial and if Manning is convicted, both sides could present evidence on the impact of the leaks when jurors weigh a sentence for the low-ranking intelligence analyst.

Coombs has suggested that his client aimed to shed light on government secrecy while carefully selecting what documents to release to the WikiLeaks website to avoid jeopardizing U.S. national security.

In his filing to the court, Coombs wrote that prosecutors wanted to hide “America's worst-kept secret — that the alleged leaks did little to no harm to national security.”

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