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WikiLeaks trial focuses on whether Tweets meet evidence standards

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (R) enters the courtroom for day four of his court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland June 10, 20
U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (R) enters the courtroom for day four of his court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland June 10, 20

By Medina Roshan

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The court-martial of the U.S. soldier accused of providing reams of classified documents to WikiLeaks in a case illustrating the challenge of keeping secrets in the digital age must decide whether tweets and Web pages can be admitted as evidence.

Lawyers for Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, who is accused with providing more than 700,000 files to the anti-secrecy website in the biggest breach of classified U.S. data in the nation's history, argued on Tuesday that Twitter postings offered by prosecutors do not meet the court's standards.

"Anyone can create a Web page...that looks like WikiLeaks or that looks like Twitter," argued defense attorney Captain Joshua Tooman when the government sought to admit a May 7, 2010 tweet from WikiLeaks seeking military Internet addresses, and the Web page of the Internet archive site archive.org that showed a 2009 WikiLeaks "Most Wanted" list of items it was seeking from the public.

Tooman said a government investigator had accessed the tweets indirectly, through Google, rather than directly through Twitter or WikiLeaks. He said the evidence failed to meet the test of authenticity since there was no way of knowing what the website looked like when the tweet or page was published.

Prosecutors argued those tweets, as well as one on January 8, 2010 from WikiLeaks saying it had an encrypted video of a U.S. air attack, were evidence of a leak and should be admissible.

Judge Colonel Denise Lind did not rule on the evidence. She ordered the trial into recess until a status hearing next Tuesday. The trial is scheduled to resume on June 26.

Manning was an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010 when WikiLeaks published the classified information. He faces 21 charges, the most serious being aiding the enemy, and faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

(Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone)

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