Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alleged WikiLeaks Leaker Hires Civilian Defense Attorney | Threat Level | Wired.com

Alleged WikiLeaks Leaker Hires Civilian Defense Attorney

Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former intelligence analyst suspected of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, has hired a civilian attorney to defend him, according to a report.

David Coombs, a former U.S. Army attorney in Rhode Island, was named as Manning’s new attorney, according to the Associated Press.

According to his web site, Coombs’s civilian practice specializes in military court martial cases. He has handled military cases involving murder, robbery, drugs and sexual assault. His most high-profile case involved defending Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar, who was charged in 2003 with attacking and killing fellow U.S. soldiers in Kuwait. Akbar is currently awaiting execution for murdering two officers.

Coombs, who is in the Army Reserves, is also a former law professor at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It’s not known if Coombs already has a clearance to handle classified materials that may be introduced as evidence in Manning’s case.

Coombs did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Pfc. Bradley Manning

Manning, 22, was arrested in May after telling a former hacker that he was responsible for leaking a classified 2007 video showing an Army Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, which WikiLeaks published last April.  Manning also claimed to have leaked an Army log of half a million military events in Iraq, a separate video of a military attack in Afghanistan in 2009, and 260,000 U.S. State Department diplomatic cables.

Manning was charged last month with leaking the Iraq video, and improperly downloading more than 150,000 State Department cables onto his unclassified personal computer. He’s charged with leaking more than 50 of them. The Pentagon has described Manning as a “person of interest” in the leaking of the 92,000-entry Afghan war log partially published by WikiLeaks last month.

WikiLeaks has never acknowledged that Manning is a source. Nonetheless the site as well as a number of other organizations and websites have been raising funds for Manning’s defense.

Manning has been assigned a team of three Army attorneys. It’s unclear if they will remain on his case as co-counsel with Coombs.

Top image: In this courtroom sketch, David Coombs (far left) sits next to Sgt. Hasan Akbar during the sentencing phase of Akbar’s court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C. April 25, 2005. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, Stacey Robinson)

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