US judge weighs charges against WikiLeaks suspect

A military judge is expected to rule Wednesday on a request to dismiss all charges against a US soldier accused of passing a trove of secret government documents to the WikiLeaks website.

Lawyers for Army private Bradley Manning have demanded all 22 counts be tossed out because they say the government has consistently "stashed away" crucial information that could help their client mount his defense.

Legal analysts say a dismissal of all charges is unlikely at Wednesday's pre-trial hearing but it remained an open question whether the judge, Colonel Denise Lind, would eventually throw out some of the 22 counts as requested by defense lawyers.

Lind was also due to rule on a motion by Manning's lawyers asking for access to testimony from a federal grand jury that is delving into the WikiLeaks episode.

The defense team won a skirmish against government lawyers on Tuesday with the judge ordering prosecutors to provide her by May 18 with an array of reports by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies looking at the damage caused by the publishing of reams of classified data by WikiLeaks.

The defense lawyers hope the assessments might undermine prosecutors' claims that the exposure of classified documents via WikiLeaks caused serious damage to national security.

The judge also ordered prosecutors to scan hard drives from the unit where Manning worked in Iraq to search for specific software.

The defense lawyers believe a search of the computers will show that other soldiers were downloading unauthorized software, including chat services and games, on purportedly secure computers.

In the worst breach of US intelligence in history, Manning is accused of passing hundreds of thousands of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks between November 2009 and May 2010, when he served as a low-ranking intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Prosecutors allege Manning betrayed the trust of the US government and helped Al-Qaeda by divulging classified intelligence online.

The 24-year-old soldier, who faces a possible life sentence if convicted, has yet to enter a plea in the case.

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