MOSCOW, June 4 (RAPSI) - Trial began Monday against former military intelligence analyst Bradley Manning who stands accused of having disclosed a great deal of classified information to Wikileaks.
According to The Guardian, the prosecution and defense reached contrasting interpretations on Manning’s decision to leak protected information.
The Guardian reported that opening statements lasted for approximately two hours.
The BBC quoted prosecutor Captain Joe Morrow as having described the situation in the following terms: “This, your honour, this is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of documents from classified databases and then dumped that information on to the internet into the hands of the enemy." Morrow added that he intends to introduce evidence that Osama bin Laden personally accessed and used some of the Wikileaks information, according to the BBC report.
Elaborating on the bin Laden point, The Guardian reported that Morrow explained that during the raid that purportedly kill bin Laden in 2011, evidence was found demonstrating that he had personally requested Wikileaks materials.
The Guardian further reported that the government suggested that Manning and Wikileaks founder and chief editor Julian Assange built up a close connection between 2009 and 2010. According to the report, the government alleged, at times explicitly and at times implicitly, that Assange guided Manning’s choice of documents to leak, and provided other such assistance.
The BBC quoted Manning’s attorney David Coombs as having described the soldier as "young, naive and good-intentioned" upon arriving in Iraq.
According to The Guardian, Coombs emphasized the idea that Manning had picked specific information that would not serve to detriment the US or benefit a foreign entity, and was motivated to do so out of concern for the US public.
According to The Guardian, the trial is expected to last for up to three months, and nearly 200 witnesses are expected to testify. Furthermore, Manning has reportedly decided to forego a jury trial.
US federal prosecutors decided late last month to drop one of the 22 offenses mounting against Manning.
The Guardian had reported earlier that the charge centered on the leak of a state department cable referred to as Reykjavik-13, relating to Iceland’s financial crisis.
Manning previously pleaded guilty to a lesser offense relating to the Reykjavik-13 cable – an offense carrying a maximum two-year prison term. The greater offense formerly sought by the prosecutors could have carried up to ten years in prison.
According to advocacy group Bradley Manning Support Network’s website, Manning is accused of having leaked a video showing US soldiers killing unarmed civilians in Iraq, including a photojournalist for Reuters and his driver. He is further accused of having leaked a multitude of Army reports and diplomatic cables.
Manning was quoted as having said of the leaks, “I believed and still believe these are some of most important documents of our time,” and then of having defended his decision to disclose on the basis of having wanted to ignite a domestic dialogue on America’s war on terror. In his view, the footage needed to be seen by the American public, as its government had become “obsessed with capturing and killing people.”
Speaking of the Iraq killing video, he reportedly described the footage as “similar to a child torturing ants [with] a magnifying glass.”
The Support Network further reported that before disclosing the documents to Wikileaks, Manning had tried to leak them to several other major US media outlets. While visiting the US at one point during a tour, he had tried to pass the documents along to the Washington Post – from whom he received a rejection for lack of corroborating information, the New York Times – from whom he didn’t receive a response, and Politico – with whom he was apparently prevented from coordinating due to a blizzard. At that point, he opted for Wikileaks which, he emphasized in his statement, never pressured him to give information, thus taking full responsibility for the disclosures.
Nathan Fuller reported earlier that Manning pleaded guilty to: “having unauthorized possession of one classified Army intelligence agency memo, more than 20 classified CIDNE Iraq documents, more than 20 CIDNE Afghanistan documents, more than 5 classified documents regarding Farah, and a video (Collateral Murder). He’s also pleading guilty to willfully communicating those to an unauthorized person and that doing so was service discrediting to the Armed Forces and was prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the Armed Forces.”
He did not, however, plead guilty to those documents having related to national defense, or to having believed that their disclosure could harm the US or benefit a foreign nation, according to Fuller.