Hearing for accused U.S. Army leaker nears end

FORT MEADE, Maryland Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:03pm EST

1 of 9. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning (C) is escorted by military police from the courthouse after the sixth day of his Article 32 hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, December 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Benjamin Myers

Related Topics

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning's unit in Iraq was characterized by weak oversight, and a violent outburst by the private accused of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history went unreported to higher command, witnesses said on Wednesday.

The testimony was the last given during a hearing to determine whether Manning should be court-martialed on 22 charges, including aiding the enemy and wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet. The prosecution has said the maximum penalty it will seek is life in prison.

Manning, 24, is accused of downloading thousands of classified or confidential files from the military's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet. Those files are thought to be the source of documents that appeared on WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website.

Attorneys will deliver their closing arguments in the hearing on Thursday, after which the investigating officer will review the testimony and make his recommendation on a court martial by January 16 unless he is granted a delay.

Manning, dressed in camouflage fatigues, smiled at photographers as he was escorted to the half-hour hearing on Wednesday between two soldiers. The audience has shrunk since the sessions began last Friday, with only about 20 people in attendance on Wednesday.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, sat near Jennifer Robinson, an attorney representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden, where he has been accused of rape and sexual assault.

Military prosecutors have sought to link Manning to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of several hundred thousand U.S. military documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables.

They introduced online chat logs they said appeared to be conversations between Manning and Assange discussing sending and receiving U.S. government information.

Manning's defense attorneys have attempted to portray him as an emotionally troubled young man whose behavioral problems should have prompted his superiors to revoke his access to classified information.

Witnesses have said Manning sent an email to his sergeant expressing concern that confusion over his gender identity was seriously hurting his life, work and ability to think. Manning had created a female alter-ego online, Breanna Manning, according to testimony at the hearing.

Testimony on Wednesday continued to emphasize those themes. Sergeant Daniel Padgett, a supervisor at the unit where Manning worked, described how the Army private overturned a table in anger, breaking a radio and computers, when reprimanded at a counseling session about his failure to show up on time.

Padgett said he was concerned that Manning might go for a nearby weapon and maneuvered him in the opposite direction while another soldier put him in a full Nelson wrestling hold until he calmed down.

Under questioning by defense lawyer David Coombs, Padgett said he could not remember discussing Manning's outburst with his superiors.

"There could have been more oversight," Padgett said when asked by Coombs about leadership at the intelligence unit where they worked as part of the Army's 10th Mountain Division.

Captain Barclay Keay, another supervisor at the unit where Manning worked, said it was a common practice at the intelligence unit to listen to music and watch videos on the classified computer network.

"Coming in and listening to music ... yeah, it was accepted," Keay said. He said he questioned whether it was appropriate to use the computers for music and videos and asked "lots of people because I didn't know the right answer."

"I didn't get a specific answer," he said. "I just kept asking."

Keay said he believed Manning wanted to be a good soldier.

"He wanted to try and he did good analytical work," he said.

(Writing By David Alexander; Editing by Eric Walsh)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
drclue wrote:
This whole fixation and drumbeat against Manning is such a smoke screen. I’ve seen the gunship video. I have read many of the cables,
especially those where early on the government spin doctors were falsely making dire “national security” claims.

What the leaks show, is that those in our government are basically
at the beck and call of multi-national businesses.

The fear is not for our “national security” or defending our constitution but rather that our so called representatives be they RED or BLUE will have their true masters and their transactions exposed.

Google a little bit , find the documents and read them for yourself.

Manning is a whistle blower and his release of documents is no different than “The pentagon papers” in relation to Vietnam, and the government’s response in this case is no different either.

The government got caught and they don’t like it.

Dec 20, 2011 9:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Geo_Tirebiter wrote:
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is clear on the subject of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, divulging classified information and treason. Manning volunteered for the military, was taught and knew those laws, and the associated penalties, and violated them anyway. Manning needs to get a clue, man up and accept responsibility for his actions. He should drop the whiny ‘girlie-man’ defense… it is only going to make him very popular at Fort Leavenworth after his eventual conviction.

Dec 21, 2011 7:36am EST  --  Report as abuse
The point here is not as much convicting Manning, which is a given that he will be shortly, the main angle here by US is to link Julian Assange to Manning showing that he had direct email conversations. This would mean that Assange would be held accountable by US authorties and consequent grounds for extradition from Asustralia.
I too have read the many leaks on Google links to wikileaks but in no way I found that outrageously secretive. Nothing new that an average person doesn’t already know.
I personally think, if this happens from time to time then USA and other complicit govts. will be on notice in future and conduct themselves with diginity.
Good luck Manning! Young life down the drain.

Dec 21, 2011 1:31pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.