Lawyers for the soldier at the center of the largest intelligence leak in United States history asked the government to acquit their client on the most serious of charges as the defense began its turn at arguing in favor of the WikiLeaks source Monday.
Six weeks after the military trial of Private first class Bradley
Manning began in Ft. Meade, Maryland, attorneys for the Army
intelligence analyst opened their case by playing a 39-minute
video shared by the soldier with WikiLeaks showing a US Apache
helicopter opening fire on civilians and journalists outside
That footage, published by the whistleblower website in April
2010 under the name “Collateral Murder” and considered by many to
be a turning point in the Iraq War, is one document among many
that government prosecutors say Manning leaked with intent to aid
to international Islamist terror group al-Qaeda. The 25-year-old
soldier’s attorneys have long attested otherwise, however, and in
the wake of the prosecution calling their final witness to
testify last week, Manning’s counsel requested Monday that the
government drop charges of aiding the enemy and other counts
among the two-dozen-plus that have left the Army private looking
at potentially a life in prison.
Col. Denise Lind, the presiding judge in the court-martial that’s
been more than three years in the making, has until later this
week to decide if the court will honor the defense’s request to
acquit Pfc. Manning on aiding the enemy, a Computer Fraud and
Abuse Act charge, a charge relating to federal larceny and
another that has left the soldier accused of stealing the contact
info of US forces in Iraq. Meanwhile, the defense began calling
their first witness in the courtroom Monday morning, then spent
nearly ten hours blowing through a list of other individuals they
hope will help their case.
Following weeks of testimony from the likes of roughly 80
witnesses called by the prosecution, the defense opened Monday’s
hearing by requesting those acquittals, then calling soldiers who
worked alongside Manning during his deployment in Iraq to speak
to the conditions in the military unit where the WikiLeaks source
surrounded himself in classified intelligence that he quickly
accumulated and then dissipated to the anti-secrecy website.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Ehresman was the first witness
called by Manning’s attorneys, and within the course of an hour
he attested that the accused soldier was among the best in his
rank, even while working in what was painted as a highly
disorganized workplace where it seemed far from impossible for
classified intelligence to end up in the wrong hands. Manning has
previously already admitted guilt in an array of the charges
lobbed against him, but Ehresman did not add to the prosecution’s
case that the WikiLeaks source went out of his way to share
intelligence with the intent to harm his fellow soldiers.
“He was our best analyst by far when it came to developing
products,” Ehresman said, going as far as to describe Manning
as “our go-to guy” for intelligence analysis, working
relentlessly to assist his Army peers even during the time frame
when he volunteered intelligence to WikiLeaks.
Elsewhere Monday morning, the defense relied on Captain Steven
Lim, Sgt. David Sadtler and Capt. Barclay Keay to detail the
circumstances in which Pfc. Manning handled classified
intelligence while deployed overseas, then called a one-time
Internet pal of the soldier to speak to his character.
Lauren McNamara told the court how beginning February 2009 she
spoke over an instant messaging client with Manning and said the
soldier often spoke about his desire to run for elected office
after his deployment was over.
“He often had interesting things to say about his job and what
that entailed and his interest in politics, world affairs and
things like that,” she said.
“He seemed to have some very well-informed and complex
opinions,” McNamara added, speculating that Manning wanted to
“enter the political sphere to effect the change he was
McNamara’s testimony came just more than a month after another
Internet confidant, Adrian Lamo, testified on behalf of the
prosecution. Manning admitted to Lamo in 2010 that he was the
source for a handful of WikiLeaks releases, only for Lamo to
alert the authorities who ultimately arrested Manning that April
near Baghdad. During cross examination at the time, Lamo admitted
to defense attorney David Coombs that he considered Manning
“desperate and isolated” with the desire to impact the
world for the better by taking documents to WikiLeaks.
When the court-martial resumes on Tuesday, the defense will ask
Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor
for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions, to weigh in on
whether Gitmo Detainee Assessment Briefs, or DABS, released by
Manning to WikiLeaks caused significant damage. Davis was on the
stand for 90 minutes on Monday before Col. Lind determined that
he could be considered an expert witness on the DABs, but not as
a specialist on national security.
Republished with permission from: RT