Manning Defense Focuses on Female Alter-Ego and Erratic Behavior

PHOTO: Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, center, is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, MD., Dec. 21, 2011, after a military hearing that will determine if he should face court-martial for his alleged role in the WikiLeaks classified leaks case.PlayPatrick Semansky/AP Photo
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Bradley Manning's defense team breezed through testimony from the only two witnesses they called today, setting the stage for closing arguments tomorrow that will likely focus on Manning's female alter-ego, Breanna, his violent erratic behavior and the leadership failures within Manning's unit.

Manning did not testify or provide a written statement on his own behalf, as part of the Article 32 pre-trial hearing that will determine whether Manning's case will be recommended for a court martial.

From the start of the six-day hearing, defense attorneys consistently raised the issue of his gender-identity disorder.

Early on Maj. Matthew Kemkes, Manning's military attorney, said raising Manning's homosexuality and his gender identity disorder was important because it would show "what was going on in my client's mind."

Manning is accused of leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks while he was deployed to Baghdad as an intelligence analyst in late 2009 through mid 2010. In 2010, the anti-secrecy website, published hundreds of thousands of military battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than a hundred thousand State Department cables.

The prosecution has laid out evidence showing Manning's connection with WikiLeaks and possession of hundreds of thousands of classified documents, as well as an email where he claimed to have leaked a video to WikiLeaks.

Investigators also found a message in which Manning allegedly boasted that hundreds of thousands of military battlefield reports from Iraq were "possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare."

Manning's Female Alter-Ego Breanna

Prosecution witnesses were routinely asked about whether they knew about Manning's sexuality and alter-ego, who he named Breanna. One Army computer forensic investigator recalled seeing a purchase order for a book on feminine facial surgery from Amazon with billing and shipping information for Manning.

Another investigator said she had seen gender identity documents inside Manning's living quarters in Baghdad, but at the time didn't think they were relevant to the investigation.

Shortly before Manning was arrested he created a twitter account with the handle @bmanningfm.

Capt. Steven Lim, Manning's commander during his service in Baghdad, testified that it was not until after Manning's arrest that he became aware of an email Manning had sent to his senior enlisting officer. In the April 2010 email, Manning said he suffered from gender identity disorder and included a photo of himself dressed as a woman. Lim said had he known about this e-mail it would have raised red flags for him and would have probably resulted in his being removed from his job and denied access to sensitive information.

As the defense focused on gender-identity, the prosecution was quick to point out the training Manning and his co-workers had received prior to security clearance. These included awareness of security protocols that restricted the movement of secure documents outside their classified office; and Manning had to sign a non-disclosure form stipulating classified information must not be disclosed for a period of 80-100 years.

In questioning prosecution witnesses, Manning's defense attorneys also raised the issue of his erratic, violent behavior, which led one superior to conclude he was "a threat to himself and to others." The defense raised questions about why Manning's superior officers allowed him to deploy to Iraq and continue to have access to classified materials.

Former Army specialist Jihrleah Showman said she was "furious" when she saw Manning's name on a deployment roster after two disturbing incidents, prior to the unit's deployment to Iraq, in late 2009.

In one of the incidents, he began to act aggressively, "screaming at the top of his lungs, waving his hands, with saliva coming out of his mouth" at the sight of his the unit's senior ranking non-commissioned officer.

Showman said she recommended that Manning receive an Article 15 non-judicial punishment to deal with a minor infraction, because he "was a threat to himself" and a "threat to others" and had disrespected his superiors. However, to her knowledge, superior officers took no action.

In a separate incident, Manning told her he "constantly felt paranoid" and "felt people were listening to his conversations, felt he could not trust anyone in the unit or around him."

After the unit had deployed to Iraq, Manning was manhandled after flipping a table during a counseling session with Sgt. Daniel Padgett.

Padgett testified today "initially, he was calm but then his demeanor changed, he stared at me in a way that made me feel a little uncomfortable."

In each of these incidents, Manning never received any reprimands or loss of access to classified information he had access to as an intelligence analyst.

That did not happen until after a May 2010 incident in which Manning punched Showman, in what she called an "unprovoked" attack.

That violent outburst led to Manning being demoted from the rank of specialist to a private and to his removal from the unit.

Defense attorneys tried to portray a unit without a clear chain of command, where junior-ranking intelligence analysts routinely violated security protocols, such as playing music, videos and games on their classified work computers.

Today, the nighttime shift supervisor, Capt. Barclay Keay said that despite raising concerns with others, "music was kind of tolerated so soldiers could be more productive…I just kind of pushed it to the side."

It was not until Keay switched units that he learned that recreational activities should not be tolerated in the work environment.

With closing arguments expected tomorrow, the military officer presiding over the pre-trial hearing will have until mid-January to decide whether to recommend Manning for a court martial.