Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bradley Manning Trial Closing Arguments Ask: Why Did He Do It?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bradley Manning Trial Closing Arguments Ask: Why Did He Do It?

Article excerpt

The trial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning - accused of leaking the largest trove of classified information in US history - is winding down as prosecution and defense present their arguments.

When they're finished, military judge Col. Denise Lind will decide the future of the young intelligence analyst, who could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The facts in the case are not in dispute: While serving in Iraq in 2009 and 2010, Private Manning provided more than 700,000 classified files, combat videos, and diplomatic cables to the whistle-blower group WikiLeaks. Many of the cables were embarrassing for the US, candidly and sometimes critically assessing officials from other countries (some of them allies).

Specifically, Manning is charged with aiding the enemy; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it is accessible to the enemy; theft of public property or records; transmitting defense information; fraud and related activity in connection with computers; and violating Army regulations and an information security program. There are 21 charges in all, including violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Espionage Act of 1917.

Under the UCMJ, Manning was able to choose to have his case decided by a single judge rather than a panel of military officers.

In closing, the two sides in this lengthy legal battle are painting two very different pictures of Manning.

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The defense says he's an idealist who became disillusioned by what he learned in Iraq and that he was trying to save lives by revealing secrets about US operations there.

Attorneys for Manning argue that no real harm was done to US national security interests, pointing to testimony from one witness (retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) who said that much of the information in the "detainee assessment briefs" revealed by Manning was easily available from open sources, including government sources.

The defense also seeks to undermine the most serious charge: aiding the enemy, specifically Al Qaeda and its affiliate in Iraq, by showing that Manning had no intention to do so.

In their closing arguments, military prosecutors say far from being an idealist, Manning was arrogant, reckless, and self- centered, looking for publicity.

"He delivered hundreds of thousands of documents ready-to-use to WikiLeaks, he delivered them for notoriety," lead prosecution lawyer Maj. Ashden Fein told the court Thursday. "He searched for as much information as he knew would guarantee his fame, information that he knew that WikiLeaks wanted to publicly release."

Major Fein also stressed the direct connection between what Manning leaked and Al Qaeda, including information gathered when Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs. …

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