- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2011

FORT MEADE, Maryland (AP) — The hearing of a U.S. Army private accused of creating the biggest national security leak in U.S. history was adjourned Thursday to await a decision on whether Pfc. Bradley Manning will face a court-martial — and life in prison if found guilty.

Military prosecutors and defense lawyers gave their closing arguments, with prosecutors saying the 19-year-old intelligence analyst defied the nation’s trust by pulling more than 700,000 documents from a supposedly secure computer network and giving reams of national secrets to WikiLeaks.

The defense said the Army had failed the troubled young soldier and is piling on charges in an attempt to force him into pleading guilty.

Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the presiding officer, now has until Jan. 16 to recommend whether Pfc. Manning should stand trial for aiding the enemy and on 21 other charges. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

“Pfc. Manning gave enemies of the United States unfettered access to these government documents,” Capt. Ashden Fein, the prosecutor, said as he pounded the podium.

The defense lawyers say Pfc. Manning was nearly paralyzed by internal struggles over his belief that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. They say his supervisors failed to suspend his access to classified data despite clear signs of emotional distress, including his statement that he had multiple personalities.

Civilian defense lawyer David Coombs called the intelligence division of Pfc. Manning’s battalion a “lawless unit” for allowing soldiers to play music, movies and video games stored on a network meant for classified data.

Pfc. Manning allegedly downloaded the diplomatic cables onto a rewritable CD labeled “Lady Gaga” while lip-synching her song “Telephone.”

Mr. Coombs also challenged the government’s original decision to classify as “secret” the material WikiLeaks published, arguing that the release of the material had caused no harm.

“If anything, it’s helped,” he said.

Pfc. Manning’s supporters say the information published by WikiLeaks exposed war crimes and triggered the wave of pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East.

Pfc. Manning was charged with giving to WikiLeaks a trove of classified data, including hundreds of thousands of State Department diplomatic cables and raw battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. There was also video of a laughing U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men, including a Reuters cameraman and his driver, in a clip WikiLeaks called “Collateral Murder.”

The reason Pfc. Manning allegedly gave for the disclosures, in online chats with a confidant who turned him in: “I want people to see the truth.”

Adrian Lamo, a one-time convicted hacker, testified he gave investigators records of his May 2010 online chats with a correspondent using the screen name “bradass87” who bragged about engineering “possibly the largest data spillage in American history” from his Army post in Baghdad.

Two computer forensic examiners said they found evidence on Pfc. Manning’s workplace and personal computers that he had downloaded battlefield reports from the military’s supposedly secure network and emailed them to WikiLeaks.

Throughout the proceedings, Pfc. Manning remained outwardly calm while witnesses 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 serving in the United States and then in Iraq from late 2009 to mid-2010.

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