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3 days in, WikiLeaks trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning comes into focus
Question of the Day
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Three days into Pfc. Bradley Manning’s court-martial for giving thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, prosecutors have shown that the soldier was trained to guard classified information and knew it easily could fall into enemy hands, yet he defied promises to protect it.
At the same time, the defense has revealed that Pfc. Manning and other intelligence analysts worked in a relaxed atmosphere in Iraq, watching movies, playing computer games and listening to music when they were supposed to be producing reports from secret government databases to help U.S. capture enemy combatants. Pfc. Manning’s defense also has tried to show he meant no harm to fellow soldiers, confidential sources or national security when he released sensitive material to the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks.
Pfc. Manning is charged under federal espionage and computer fraud laws, but the most serious offense the military has accused him of is aiding the enemy, which carries a life sentence. To convict him of that, prosecutors must prove Pfc. Manning knew the material he leaked would be seen by al Qaeda.
On Wednesday, Jihrleah Showman, who worked with Pfc. Manning in Baghdad, testified that during the first three months of their deployment in late 2009 and early 2010, soldiers often spent working hours watching movies they brought in or listening to music they found on a shared hard drive reserved for classified material. She said the brigade commander ordered them to stop in February 2010.
“It was there, sir,” he said. “I don’t know if it was authorized or not.”
Pfc. Manning, 25, has acknowledged downloading hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports and video and State Department diplomatic cables to compact disks at work and then using his personal computer to send the files to WikiLeaks.
Chief Warrant Officer Balonek acknowledged there were no restrictions on the type of information intelligence analysts could download from secure databases to workplace computers connected to the network. He also said he witnessed Pfc. Manning signing an agreement not to disclose classified information without authorization, one of two that Pfc. Manning signed as part of his training.
Ms. Showman said analysts had access to many kinds of information, but that didn’t mean they were supposed to look at all of it.
“It was your responsibility to look at things you needed,” she said. “Just because you had a secret clearance doesn’t mean you have legal access to see everything that has secret classification over it.”
Shortly before his arrest, Pfc. Manning was disciplined for punching Ms. Showman in the face in what she has described as one of several violent outbursts both before and during their deployment. She did not testify about the punch Wednesday but could be recalled later.
Pfc. Manning’s lawyer has called him a “young, naive but good-intentioned” soldier, but prosecutors say he put secrets directly into the hands of Osama bin Laden.
His trial, which is being heard by a judge instead of a jury, is expected to run all summer.
On Tuesday, an instructor testified that Pfc. Manning was a serious, but pesky and inquisitive, student who was ridiculed by classmates during advanced intelligence training in 2008 at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
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