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Assange-Manning Link Not Key to WikiLeaks Case

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange listens to a reporter's question during a news conference at the Frontline Club in London Jan. 17, 2011. AP Photo

A report that investigators have so far failed to establish a direct link between the founder of the document-dumping website WikiLeaks and the Army private accused of providing the site with hundreds of thousands of secret State Department cables won't derail the military's case as much as it might seem.

The case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning didn't hinge on investigators uncovering a direct link to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange anyway, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports.

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On Monday, NBC News reported that military officials said Manning couldn't be directly linked to Assange in allegedly handing off the cables and other secret documents that led to last summer's publication of the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs.

But no one ever thought there was direct contact between Assange and Manning, Martin reports. Assange meeting or e-mailing Manning would be like the director of the Central Intelligence Agency meeting or e-mailing a CIA agent. The theory of the case is that Assange orchestrated the leak through cut outs deliberately designed to immunize himself from charges of espionage.

In his own e-mails, Manning refers to himself as a source for Assange even though he did not give the documents to Assange but allegedly to a third person while home on Christmas leave, Martin reports.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department was considering filing espionage charges in the case.

Meanwhile, Manning continues to be held in a military brig while the Army considers prosecuting him. He has been charged with illegally obtaining more than 150,000 secret cables and giving more than 50 of them and a classified video to an unauthorized person.

Manning's lawyer told The Associated Press Friday that a mental-health investigation to determine if Manning can stand trial will likely begin in February.

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