FORT MEADE, MD. — In their closing arguments, Army prosecutors portrayed Bradley Manning as an anarchist and a man hungry for fame who was fully aware that his leak of hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks would end up in the hands of America’s enemies, particularly al Qaeda.
Manning faces the prospect of life in a military prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him of aiding the enemy. The former Army intelligence analyst already faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to some lesser charges in February.
“He was not a whistleblower, he was a traitor,” said Major Ashlend Fein, wrapping up nearly five hours of closing arguments on Thursday. Manning is alleged to have provided the anti-secrecy website with two air combat videos and nearly 700,000 classified documents, including military action reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic cables.
Referring to the opening arguments by Manning’s attorney at the start of the court martial in early June that Manning was motivated to leak the documents because he was a naive young soldier who as a humanist wanted to change the world.
“He was not a humanist, he was a hacker,” said Fein. He added that the only naivete Manning displayed during the time he was sending classified documents to Wikileaks was that “he actually thought he would get away with what he did and wouldn’t get caught.”
The Army prosecutor described Manning as an anarchist who relished in the notoriety the documents he sent to Wikileaks had generated.
He pointed to an internet chat Manning had with hacker Adrian Lamo, in which he said his goal was to create “worldwide anarchy.” It was a concerned Lamo who later contacted authorities about Manning’s boasts that he had access to classified information.
Fein said Manning “was not a person conflicted by his actions” but someone who thought he would finally become famous. He said he actively searched the secure military computer networks he had access to for information he could leak that would have the greatest impact.
To make his point Fein referenced precise computer forensic work presented over the past two months during the court martial. That evidence recreated Manning’s computer activity during his deployment to Iraq in late 2009 to mid-2010 when Manning is alleged to have transferred documents to Wikileaks.
That evidence showed that Manning began searching for information that was of interest to Wikileaks just weeks after his arrival in Iraq.
“He knew everything he compromised would be leaked to the internet,” said Fein. Fein referenced online chats Manning had with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in which he encouraged Manning to release more documents than Assange’s site had published.
Fein pointed to another online chat to Lamo in which Manning boasted that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and thousands of diplomats would “have a heart attack” when they found an entire repository of diplomatic cables had been posted on the internet.
Fein also argued that Manning should have known that what he was leaking to Wikileaks would have ended up in the hands of al Qaeda. Fein said that as a trained army intelligence analyst, Manning knew that al Qaeda used Wikileaks as a means of gathering intelligence on U.S. national security matters.
To prove that, the prosecutor mentioned evidence presented during the trial that showed some of the military action reports leaked by Manning were found on a computer seized during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.
Manning listened attentively as the case was presented against him. He was asked to sit in the witness chair a few times during Fein’s argument so he could peruse some classified evidence being presented against him.
Manning’s defense team will make their closing arguments Friday, and the prosecution could make a rebuttal argument when they are done.
At the conclusion of the arguments it will be up to Col. Denise Lind, the judge presiding over the case, to determine if Manning is guilty on the 12 remaining charges he faces.
Once a verdict is announced, the sentencing phase of the court martial will begin. Those arguments are scheduled to begin next Wednesday.