Defense attorneys for Army Pvt. First Class Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of illegally obtaining and leaking thousands of classified military and government files to the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, have raised questions about whether his confusion over his gender identity affected his behavior and decision making at the time of his alleged acts.
Witnesses at today's pre-trial hearing were asked by defense attorneys if they knew that Manning is gay and suffered from gender identity disorder. They noted that he had created a female alter ego, calling himself Breanna Manning.
Pressed by Manning's defense team, several Army investigators who testified at today's pre-trial hearing said that in the course of their investigation they became aware of Manning's female alter ego. They also knew that a search of Manning's room in Baghdad found medical information about female hormone treatments for people with gender identity disorder.
Prosecutors objected to the defense's line of questioning, but 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, who turned 24 today, appeared in his camouflage uniform wearing black thick-rimmed glasses. Small in stature, he was seated between his civilian and military lawyers.
Manning was an intelligence analyst working in a secure room known as a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility) at Camp Liberty in Baghdad at the time that he is alleged to have released secret documents. Manning was among 10 low-ranking soldiers who had access to classified information in that facility and Manning's attorneys suggested that others had access to the materials he is alleged to have removed from the secure room.
During his deployment Manning exhibited erratic behavior that resulted in several confrontations with co-workers. In a December 2010 incident he was forcefully carried out of the SCIF after flipping over a table "in a fit of rage" that damaged a computer.
Capt. Steven Lim, Manning's commander during his service in Baghdad, testified that he had been made aware of the incident, but did not know the specifics. He said full awareness of the incident would have raised red flags for him about Manning's behavior that would have probably resulted in his being removed from his job and denied access to sensitive information.
Lim said another red flag would have been knowledge about an e-mail and photo that Manning sent to his sergeant major in April 2010. In the email, Manning said he suffered from gender identity disorder and included a photo of himself dressed as a woman. Lim said the sergeant major sent him the email in June 2010, shortly after Manning's arrest.
Lim described Manning as a smart individual who was good with statistical analysis in spotting trends. He said that despite the security regulations in effect at the SCIF, there really was not anything in place that would have prevented a soldier from burning a CD in the facility for his or her own purpose.
"We can't watch a single person for 24 hours a day," he said, noting that there's an element of trust involved with those working in the SCIF.
Army investigator Troy Bettencourt described two other incidents of odd behavior Manning exhibited while he was deployed to Baghdad, one in which he assaulted his supervisor and another when he was found curled up in a ball. Asked if he would have handled Manning differently if he had been in his change of command, Bettencourt said his opinion is "colored by hindsight," but knowing "what we know about his behavior," he would have prevented him from deploying to Iraq.
Fellow investigator Toni Graham, who gave the order to search Manning's work and living areas, testified that they had information from a "confidential informant" who had direct contact with Manning and had in turn contacted the FBI.
Graham's description matches that of hacker Adriam Lamo, who released logs of his online chats with Manning and contacted the FBI when Manning boasted of having leaked thousands of government files.
Graham said that tip led them to authorize a search of Manning's work area, his living area, as well as a supply room. They seized several laptops, 10 CDs (one of which was in a U.S. Postal Service box and labeled "Secret"), and multiple government encryption devices.
The defense tried to poke holes in the reasoning for authorizing the search. They noted that a video that surfaced on Wikileaks under the name "Collateral Murder" and appears to show an Apache attack helicopter firing on unarmed journalists in Iraq, was one justification for the search, but it was in fact unclassified. Graham testified that she had believed the video was classified when she sought the search.
Army investigator Mark Mander testified that a memory card containing classified information had been found in Manning's aunt's house in Potomac, Md.
The hearing was supposed to begin Friday but was delayed until today after Manning's defense asked that the investigating officer who presides over the so-called Article 32 hearing recuse himself for conflict of interest. That motion was denied last night.
The proceedings were also slightly delayed after the first witness was unable to be heard due to a poor cell phone signal.
Her voice cutting in and out, she told the investigating officer that she did not have a landline to call from.
"I can be in my office in a half hour," she suggested.
"I think that would be appropriate," he replied.