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Defense rests case in WikiLeaks military hearing

Defense rests case in WikiLeaks military hearing

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FORT MEADE — Lawyers for the Army intelligence analyst blamed for the biggest national security leak in American history briskly presented the entirety of his defense Wednesday, a year-and-half after the young private allegedly handed a trove of classified data to WikiLeaks.

Pfc. Bradley Manning’s defense rested its case after calling only two witnesses who testified about his behavioral problems and lax security controls on the computers in his Baghdad office.

In this courtroom sketch, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, left, his attorney David Coombs, standing left, Prosecution attorney Ashden Fein, center, and Inspecting Officer Paul Almanza, upper right, and witness Adrian Lamo, right, appear in a courtroom in Fort Meade on Tuesday (AP Photo/William Hennessy)

The hearing was recessed until closing arguments Thursday, after which the case’s presiding officer will have until Jan. 16 to recommend whether the 24-year-old Oklahoma native should be court-martialed for aiding the enemy and a score of other charges.

Called before the judge Wednesday were a sergeant who witnessed one of Manning’s fits of rage in Baghdad and a captain who oversaw the private and his co-workers there in late 2009. The defense has painted Manning as a troubled man who shouldn’t have had access to classified material, let alone served in Iraq, and that security at his workplace was weak.

Throughout the proceedings, Manning has remained outwardly composed as witness after witness talked about his emotional problems, his difficulties as a gay soldier during the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” era, and his violent outbursts while still in the United States and then during his tour of duty in Iraq from late 2009 to mid-2010.

Manning was part of a three-soldier skeleton crew working the night shift in a restricted area with computers connected to the military’s supposedly secure network for sharing classified information. But witnesses said soldiers routinely accessed music, movies and computer games over the network as well.

“I remember thinking that was something we shouldn’t be so liberal about,” said Capt. Barclay Keay, who was in charge of a night shift Manning worked for a few weeks in late 2009. He found it “kind of odd” that troops were using the secure network for recreational media during work hours, but learned that such activities were an accepted practice on the war front.

Manning allegedly downloaded hundreds of thousands of State Department diplomatic cables onto a rewritable CD labeled “Lady Gaga,” while lip-synching to her song, “Telephone.” He also is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified military reports and a video of a deadly American helicopter attack to the secrets-spilling website WikiLeaks, which shared the information with the world.

Two sides of Manning

Keay’s impression of Manning was that he was a good soldier who “did good analytical work.”

But Sgt. Daniel Padgett, one of Manning’s supervisors, said otherwise, recalling an incident when he sat down with Manning for a “counseling session” after the soldier was late for work.

When Padgett tried to impress on Manning the importance of being on time, “his demeanor changed,” the former supervisor testified. He said Manning then stood up and overturned a table, spilling a radio and computer onto the floor. Padgett said he moved Manning away from a gun rack while someone else restrained him until he calmed down. Padgett said he didn’t remember reporting the incident to his supervisors.

The government says Manning’s leak of classified data and WikiLeak’s revelations rattled U.S. foreign relations and imperiled valuable military and diplomatic sources. It rested its case against Manning on Tuesday after calling 21 witnesses over five days of proceedings at a military base outside Washington.

The government wants Manning court-martialed on charges including aiding the enemy. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Prosecution witnesses said Manning was well trained in rules prohibiting release of classified information.

Forensic computer experts testified that they’d retraced his keyboard strokes as he downloaded diplomatic cables and raw battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.

And Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker, said Manning confided to him in May 2010 that he was the leaker. Lamo then informed authorities.

After closing arguments, presiding officer Lt. Col. Paul Almanza will weigh his recommendation of whether Manning should be court-martialed. Then, a senior military officer will make the final decision. The process could take several weeks.

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