Day one of the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who stands accused of leaking more than 700,000 military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks, began today. Starkly different portraits of Manning were portrayed by prosecutor Army Capt. Joe Morrow and defense attorney David Coombs.
From the New York Times:
“This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy – material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk,” said the prosecutor, Capt. Joe Morrow of the Army.
But a defense lawyer for Private Manning told the judge that his client had been “young, naïve, but good-intentioned” and that he had, in fact, tried to make sure that the several hundred thousand documents he released would not cause harm.
In contrast with the portrait painted by Manning’s defense, the prosecution presented in part messages that were said to be from Manning to an individual with whom he communicated about the information to which he had access.
The prosecutor showed slides as part of his statement. The first slide was said to be a quote from a message Manning once posted, using the instant message handle “bradass87.”
“If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?” it read.
That is purportedly part of a string of instant messages that a person — alleged to be Manning — sent to ex-hacker Adrian Lamo. Manning, who was based in Iraq, allegedly instant-messaged Lamo and, over a period of days, said that he had accessed documents.
Lamo has said he reported Manning to authorities.
Capt. Morrow was said to be laying groundwork to argue that Manning had been involved earlier than he has admitted, and that the breadth and timing of the downloads from Manning’s computer help to establish this and the extent of Manning’s involvement.
From the NY Times:
In particular, Captain Morrow contended that some of Private Manning’s searches were undertaken in response to public requests by WikiLeaks for certain documents, like files related to detainee interrogations. He also said Private Manning had made suggestions about how to edit a video showing an Apache airstrike on a group of men in Baghdad in 2007 that he provided; two Reuters journalists died in the strike.
And the prosecutor repeatedly emphasized that Private Manning had been trained to be wary of posting material on the Internet, and had specifically uncovered an intelligence report warning that foreign adversaries could be gaining access to the information posted on WikiLeaks. Captain Morrow also said the government would show that Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, had requested and obtained an archive of wartime incident reports in Afghanistan that Private Manning gave to WikiLeaks.
Coombs in turn emphasized that Manning was a naive soldier who took the actions with good intentions; a soldier who was deeply affected by an incident that influenced those actions.
Mr. Coombs began his opening statement, which was about half the length of the prosecutor’s, by describing an episode on Dec. 24, 2009, nearly two months after Private Manning was deployed to Iraq, which he portrayed as a turning point. A bomb exploded near a convoy, and everyone in his unit was afraid that their fellow soldiers had been hurt.
Word came back that they were O.K., and everyone celebrated. Then word came that an innocent Iraqi family that had pulled over beside the road to let the convoy pass had been severely injured, with one person dying en route to the hospital. While the others in his unit continued to celebrate, Mr. Coombs said, Private Manning – thinking about the Iraqi victims – was crushed.
From that moment, Mr. Coombs said, things started to change, and in January 2010 Private Manning “started selecting information he believed the public should see, should hear – information he believed if the public knew, could make the world a better place.”
The trial continues this week and is expected to last up to 12 weeks. While Manning has already admitted to 10 of the lesser charges, he still faces other charges that include some of the more serious ones in relation to violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy, for which he could receive a sentence of life in prison.DONATE
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