FORT MEADE, Maryland -- U.S. military prosecutors and defense lawyers argued Monday over evidence against an Army intelligence analyst charged with leaking massive amounts of secret U.S. data to WikiLeaks, while the public was shut out as the hearing dealt with classified but widely publicized information.
The hearing, in its fourth day, is to determine whether Pfc. Bradley Manning should be court-martialed on 22 charges, including aiding the enemy. If convicted, the 24-year-old could face life in prison.
The government was expected to call up to eight more witnesses to testify. The defense would then present its case.
Monday's testimony focused on a forensic examination of Manning's two workplace computers, which a government witness said contained 110,000 State Department diplomatic cables.
On cross-examination, though, digital crimes investigator David Shaver said there was little indication the cables were disseminated. Some cables didn't match any of those published by WikiLeaks. He said 10,000 were in a corrupted file that could only be opened with special tools. At least 100,000 couldn't be matched to Manning's user profile and may not have been sent anywhere.
Defense attorneys argue the leaked material did little or no damage to U.S. interests. They have neither acknowledged nor denied that the intelligence analyst was behind the leaks.
But a decision by presiding officer Paul Almanza to remove spectators and reporters for a half-hour of the hearing Monday morning was a worrying sign for Manning’s defense.
By ruling the diplomatic and military information in question should somehow remain secret, even though it has been published by media around the world, Almanza effectively undermined the defense argument that no harm was done and the information might as well be public.
Manning’s supporters fumed. The defense already has appealed for Almanza to be removed from the case because of his civilian job with the Justice Department, which is conducting a separate investigation of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange.
Almanza “is seeking to prevent journalists and the public from reporting on testimony related to materials that are already in the public domain,” said a group called the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Two supporters had run-ins with military police Monday. Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg was escorted out of court when he approached Manning during a recess to introduce himself. He was later allowed to return. But Daniel Choi – a soldier kicked out of the military under the now-repealed policy against gays serving openly – was ejected from the base after allegedly ignoring a warning not to heckle military police, according to defense officials.
Shaver’s testimony Sunday illustrated how the government connected the dots in its case accusing Manning of committing traitorous leaks from his perch as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad.
He told the hearing that in addition to thousands of State Department cables, he found several versions of a deadly 2007 helicopter attack video and secret assessments of terrorist detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He also said he discovered evidence that someone had used the computer to streamline the downloading of cables with the apparent aim of “moving them out.”
All the material was linked to the username “bradley.manning” or Manning’s user profile, Shaver said.
The other computer was used to conduct scores of online searches for the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and its founder, Assange, he said.
Manning has remained calm during the hearing. He hasn’t spoken in the last three days, except for the few occasions he has leaned over to consult with his civilian attorney, David Coombs.
Manning’s defense has challenged the government to explain why a private said to have upended furniture in fits of rage and exhibited a pattern of troubled behavior was allowed to keep working with highly sensitive information.
After Almanza’s recommendation, the Army says it may take several weeks for the commander of the Military District of Washington to decide whether Manning will be court-martialed.
Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington may choose other courses, including administrative punishment or dismissal of some or all counts. He also could add more charges based on evidence produced at the hearing.