Harvard prof is star witness at WikiLeaks trial

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By DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated Press

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — A Harvard law professor testifying on behalf of an Army private who leaked classified information is also the last witness the defense expects to call, the soldier's civilian attorney has told supporters.

Attorney David Coombs told supporters of Pfc. Bradley Manning on Tuesday evening that Professor Yochai (yoh-KYE') Benkler's testimony Wednesday would likely end the defense case, said Jeff Paterson, a board member of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Coombs made no mention of calling Manning to the stand, Paterson said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Benkler would be the ninth live witness in just three days of defense testimony. Prosecutors presented live testimony or written statements from 80 witnesses in 14 days. The trial began June 3 at Fort Meade near Baltimore.

The defense had proposed calling more than 20 witnesses, but Coombs told supporters he would not need them all to counter the prosecution's arguments, Paterson said.

"He said he's not going to call up witnesses to counter arguments that were never made. For him, that was the best case scenario," Paterson said.

Benkler has praised WikiLeaks as a new kind of journalistic enterprise. He wrote in a 2001 International Journal of Communications article that the prosecution of Manning is part of a broader, uncoordinated attack on WikiLeaks aimed at crippling the anti-secrecy group.

"Mostly, they appear to represent a series of acts by agents, both public and private, that feed into each other to produce an effect that is decidedly inconsistent with the kind of freedom of the press and freedom of speech to which the United States is committed," Benkler wrote.

Manning is charged with aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence, for admittedly sending reams of classified information to WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in late 2009 and early 2010. Prosecutors say he knew the material would be seen by the terrorist group al-Qaida on the WikiLeaks website. They produced evidence that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden obtained digital copies of some of the leaked documents WikiLeas published.

The 25-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., has acknowledged giving the anti-secrecy group hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department diplomatic cables, along with battlefield videos and other documents he downloaded from a classified government computer network. Manning has said he leaked the material to provoke public discussion about what he considered wrongdoing by American troops and diplomats. The material included video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. A military investigation concluded the troops reasonably mistook the photography equipment for weapons.

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