- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 4, 2013

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — A one-time computer hacker who told authorities Pfc. Bradley Manning was giving information to WikiLeaks testified Tuesday the soldier never said he wanted to help the enemy during their online chats.

Pfc. Manning is on trial for giving hundreds of thousands of documents to the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks. He pleaded guilty to charges that could bring 20 years behind bars, but the military has pressed ahead with a court-martial on more serious charges, including aiding the enemy. That charge carries a potential life sentence.

Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker, said he started chatting online with Pfc. Manning on May 20, 2010, and alerted law enforcement the next day about the contents of the soldier’s messages, including his mention of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He said he continued chatting with Pfc. Manning on and off for six more days.

On cross-examination, Mr. Lamo said Pfc. Manning never told him he wanted to help the enemy and did not express disloyalty to America.

“At any time did Pfc. Manning ever say he wanted to help the enemy?” defense attorney David Coombs asked.

“Not in those words, no,” Mr. Lamo said.

Prosecutors have said they will show that the 25-year-old Army intelligence analyst effectively put U.S. military secrets into the hands of the enemy, including Osama bin Laden. They said they will present evidence that bin Laden requested and obtained from another al Qaeda member the Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables published by WikiLeaks.

Pfc. Manning, from Crescent, Okla., has said he did not believe the information would harm the U.S. and he released the information to enlighten the public about the bitter reality of America’s wars.

His attorney also has said Pfc. Manning struggled privately with gender identity early in his tour of duty, when gays couldn’t openly serve in the military. Those struggles led Pfc. Manning to “feel that he needed to do something to make a difference in this world,” Mr. Coombs said.

Mr. Lamo testified Pfc. Manning had contacted him because of his notoriety in the hacking community and because of his open support and leadership in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Mr. Lamo pleaded guilty in 2004 to computer fraud after he was arrested for hacking the computer networks of The New York Times and Microsoft. He was sentenced to six months’ house arrest and two years’ probation.

Pfc. Manning chose to have his court-martial heard by a judge instead of a jury. It is expected to run all summer. Much of the evidence is classified, which means large portions of the trial are likely to be closed to reporters and the public.

Federal authorities are looking into whether Mr. Assange also can be prosecuted. He has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex-crimes allegations.

“This is not justice; never could this be justice,” Mr. Assange said in a statement Monday. “The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity.”

The case is the highest-profile prosecution for the Obama administration, which has been criticized for its crackdown on those who leak information. It’s also by far the most voluminous release of classified material in U.S. history, and certainly the most sensational since the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers, a secret Defense Department history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

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