Bradley Manning Court Martial Verdict in Judge's Hands
FORT MEADE, Md. - Private First Class Bradley Manning's fate is now in the hands of a military judge. Alleged to have leaked 700,000 classified military and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks he faces life in a military prison if convicted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. Manning already faces up to 20 years of jail time after pleading guilty in February to some of the lesser charges he faced.
Col. Denise Lind, the presiding judge in the case, will determine if Army prosecutors successfully proved that Manning was aiding the enemy with "general evil intent" because he knew that his leaked documents would end up in the hands of al Qaeda.
Manning's defense team has never denied that Manning leaked classified documents, but has argued that his actions were those of a naive young soldier who thought he could make a difference in the world.
Lind will deliberate over the weekend and will give a day's notice ahead of her verdict. Once a verdict is announced the sentencing phase of the court martial is scheduled to begin next Wednesday.
On Thursday, Army prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein argued that Manning was an anarchist who relished the notoriety that the material sent to Wikileaks had generated. "He was not a whistleblower, he was a traitor," said Fein.
David Coombs, Manning's lead defense attorney, labeled Fein's closing arguments a "diatribe" that used Manning's own words out of context to portray him in a negative light. Fein had argued that Manning was motivated by a desire for fame and began working for Wikileaks as soon as he got to Iraq in November, 2009.
Coombs asked Lind to consider which version of the truth about Manning was right. "Is Private First Class Manning someone who is a traitor, who has no loyalty to this country or the flag, and wanted to systematically harvest and download as much information as possible for his true employer Wikileaks? Is that what the evidence shows? Or is he a young naive, but good-intentioned soldier who had human life and his humanist beliefs centered to his decision. Whose sole focus was to, maybe, just make a difference, maybe, make a change. Which side of the version is the truth?"
Coombs argued that the detailed computer forensics presented by prosecutors on Thursday never discussed Manning wanting to get information to America's enemies. The forensics recreated many of Manning's computer interactions during the time of his 2009-2010 deployment to Iraq when he is alleged to have leaked materials to Wikileaks.
"He did not have a general evil intent," said Coombs.
Fein repeatedly made mention of an online chat where 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.
Coombs joked that Fein referred to that quote as many as 15 times in his arguments. He explained that the line actually referred to the shockwaves the public release of the cables would have at the State Department. Why? Because they showed how the United States exploits Third World countries.
Coombs said it was a misinterpretation of this quote that had led prosecutors to characterize Manning as an anarchist.
Coombs pointed to other online comments Manning had made while in Iraq were a better indicator of his true character. "I place value on people first," he said in a text to a friend
"He was connected to everybody," said Coombs who added that Manning felt he had a duty to others. "What a great feeling to have for a young man..that is not something that is anti-patriotic, something that is not anti-American."
In his rebuttal arguments, Fein reiterated that as a trained Army intelligence analyst Manning knew that the information he provided to Wikileaks would be used by al Qaeda. "His actions ensured that al Qaeda could go to Wikileaks and datamine that information."
"He did this wanting the whole world, including al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to see, and that is evil intend and that is aiding the enemy," said Fein.
Also on Friday, Lind announced that a Manning supporter has been banned from the rest of the trial after being accused of posting threatening messages on the Internet.
A statement from the press office at Fort Meade released later said, "A member of the media has been barred from the court martial by order of the military judge for posting threatening messages regarding some of the cur martial participants. The judge sealed the order so no other detail will be forthcoming. The safety and security of all personnel participating in US vs PFC Bradley Manning is of utmost importance throughout the legal proceedings."
In a Twitter message, sketch artist Clark Stoeckley said, "I'm banned from the court martial."
Stoeckley is a sketch artist who has covered every proceeding in the Manning case, he is known for driving a white box truck that sports the Wikileaks logo.