Capt. Joe Morrow said at a military court hearing at Fort Meade, Md., that prosecutors would show the 24-year-old Army soldier knowingly "aided the enemy" when he transferred hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables and other documents to the Internet whistle-blower Web site WikiLeaks, The Guardian reported.
Lead defense lawyer David Coombs countered by requesting that the government produce any evidence it possesses that backs up the allegation Manning knew the documents would become available to enemy forces such as al-Qaida.
"We haven't seen any evidence that the government has provided by discovery that supports any knowledge that the information would be obtained by the enemy," he said.
Manning has been jailed for more than two years since his arrest at Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad.
Coombs said the release of information to an organization such as WikiLeaks was no different from going to a respected newspaper with concerns.
"If I'm a government official and I'm concerned by some aspect of government practice, and I go to The New York Times with information, and the newspaper publishes it, have I now aided the enemy?" Coombs asked the presiding military judge, Col. Denise Lind.
The Guardian said Manning is attending the pretrial proceedings, which are expected to last three days. The judge is to issue rulings on the issues raised at a later date.
The British newspaper said Morrow and Coombs argued over the method Manning allegedly used to download the documents he's accused of passing to WikiLeaks.
The government alleges the soldier broke U.S. computer espionage law by using the software Wget to carry out the high-speed download of the diplomatic files. Morrow said Manning, an intelligence analyst, had authority to access the secure computer network SIPRnet, but the Wget software allowed him to transfer the information much more quickly.
"Manning had a key to the house, but he used a bulldozer to access the information, thus exceeding his authorized access," Morrow said.
Coombs acknowledged Wget was not authorized for use on the secure computers, but said there were no rules against his downloading of the cables.
"There were no restrictions on downloading the diplomacy database -- none," Coombs said.