Manning Labeled as 'Traitor' in Government's Closing
FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - A military prosecutor capped off his day-long closing arguments in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning by labeling the admitted WikiLeaks source as a "traitor."
The remark presents a stark contrast to the attempts of defense attorney David Coombs to characterize his client as "young, naive but good intentioned" man who grappled with ethical dilemmas.
"He was not a troubled young soul," Maj. Ashden Fein, the lead prosecutor, said at the close of five hours of summations Thursday. "He was a determined soldier with a knowledge, ability and desire to harm the United States in its war effort. And, Your Honor, he was not a whistle-blower. He was a traitor: a traitor who understood the value of compromised information in the hands of the enemy and took deliberate steps to ensure they, along with the world, received all of it."
The former intelligence specialist faces 22 charges connected with the disclosure of more than 700,000 military and diplomatic files, including battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. embassy cables, Guantanamo detainee profiles, and footage of airstrikes that killed civilians.
Manning said he hoped the publication of this information would spark widespread debate, reforms, and reportage about the way the U.S. conducts warfare and diplomacy.
He could face a life sentence without parole if convicted of "aiding the enemy" based on Civil War precedent that likens leak to the press with treason if an adversary receives the information. Press-freedom advocates and civil libertarians assail this interpretation of the law for its simplistic reliance on the mere access al-Qaida and other U.S. adversaries have to the Internet.
Prosecutors have said that a cartoon of this very point put Manning on notice of the "aiding the enemy" charge.
The image depicts a crude sketch of a Dilbert-style figure sitting at a computer, with an unattributed statistic in its caption: "Over the last ten years, the number of terrorist sites has jumped from less than 100 to as many as 4,000."
On top of this charge, Manning also faces 21 other charges - such as the Espionage Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and military violations - that could tack on more than a century behind bars.
His supporters, who have filled the courtroom with T-shirts bearing the word "truth," herald the mass leaks as a new frontier in whistle-blowing and data journalism, giving the public a broad view of how opaque social institutions function.
Maj. Fein dismissed the acts as "wholesale, indiscriminate leaking," and claimed that he "delivered these documents for notoriety."
Though he wore custom-made dog tags specifically branded with the word humanist, "the only person that Pfc. [Bradley] Manning cared about was himself," Fein said.
"Julian Assange found the right insider to mine" the military computers, he added, referring to the founder of WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors say Manning took cues on what to leak from the WikiLeaks' Most-Wanted List and its Twitter feed. Manning took a special interest in Icelandic affairs because that was where its chief Julian Assange was at the time, Fein said.
Casting WikiLeaks as "information anarchists," Fein said that Manning's chats with a user believed to be Assange depicted the website as "anything but a journalistic enterprise."
Although these chats never have been published, Fein quoted snippets that he believed supported his argument.
Fein said Manning called the website, "The first intelligence agency of the people," and an organization whose "only interest [is] in the revelation of the truth."
At one point, Manning asked, "Is there any way I can get you a crypto-phone?" to secure their communications, Fein said.
Manning has said that he started leaking after becoming disillusioned with the idea that his concerns could be addressed within the military. In one online chat, he complained that a supervisor asked him to turn over peaceful Iraqi protesters to the country's federal police, knowing that these activists could be tortured in custody.
Maj. Fein countered that Manning indicated in the same chat that he started leaking around Thanksgiving 2009, shortly after his deployment.
Manning had only "one mission" in Iraq, "finding and disclosing what WikiLeaks wanted," Fein added.
The prosecutor pointed to another part of the chats in which Manning allegedly said, "I don't know what a posting of Glenn Beck's email will do. But hey, that's transparency."
While the context for the remark is unclear, it appears to be a reference to the release of Sarah Palin's messages after her email account was hacked in 2008. David Kernall was eventually convicted of the exploit, as the news media grappled with whether illicitly obtained emails of public figures were fair game for reportage.
Manning also communicated with WikiLeaks by attaching a note to the so-called "war logs," battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time," Manning wrote, "removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare."
Manning said before trial began that he believed these documents, officially known as significant action reports (SigActs), were low-sensitivity historical data that were safe for release.
Fein countered: "This is not purely historical data without any value, as the defense suggested."
Rather, these reports "detail how we defeat our enemies and what enemies use to harm us," Fein said. "Osama bin Laden himself asked for this information and received it."
This evidence was entered into the record in the form of a classified agreement between the two parties that has never been released to the public.
Another part of Manning's note to WikiLeaks stated that the disclosures had "already been sanitized of any source identifying information." His attorney argued that this meant that the soldier believed the documents did not expose intelligence sources. Fein claimed that Manning actually meant that he made the document untraceable back to him.
A government witness who testified in secret session estimated that a foreign adversary would have paid $1.3 million for the Afghan reports and $1.9 million for the Iraq logs, Fein said.
Manning also sent a picture of himself smiling at his aunt's house along with the leaks.
"This is not the photo of a troubled person conflicted about his actions," Fein said.
Fein said Manning had a hand in editing his most well-known release, the footage of a Baghdad airstrike that WikiLeaks titled "Collateral Murder." In an email to a WikiLeaks supporter, Manning said he instructed that the video should begin with a George Orwell quote and information about the two Reuters employees, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen.
Manning said he was repulsed by the "seemingly delightful bloodlust" of the gunners pursuing helpless targets.
Fein said: "Pfc. Manning thought the video was cool and decided to release it to a bunch of anti-government activists and anarchists."
Manning burned the footage on a disc marked "Reuters FOIA," and stored it in an Arabic-language instruction CD booklet on a disc marked "Secret."
Ironically, the video was in fact unclassified, trial evidence showed.
Even while depicting Manning as hungry for fame, Fein said, "We know that Pfc. Manning was obsessed with covering his own tracks."
Prosecutors believe that Manning tried to browse secret military networks anonymously by cracking passwords, with help from Assange. The two allegedly spoke about "rainbow tables" and other cryptographic tools to accomplish the task.
The two also purportedly discussed the Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs, or DABs. Manning said that he believed the documents would shine a light on the men who were illegally and indefinitely detained.
Fein cast it as an attempt to "garner politically notable information" and cement his reputation.
The first diplomatic cable that Manning leaked, known as Reykjavik 13, described pressure that European powers exerted on Icelandic banks. Manning said he felt that he could shine a spotlight on the bullying of a weaker nation. Fein said Manning chose this cable first because of the Iceland's importance to WikiLeaks' operations.
Manning eventually downloaded more than 250,000 other files, which were released under the name "Cablegate."
In web chats, the soldier likened the disclosures to an experiment in President Woodrow Wilson's vision of "open diplomacy," as well as "worldwide anarchy."
Fein quoted the latter remark, but not the former.
The government estimates the value of the cables at $1.8 million, a figure that the defense contests.
Manning wrote in his chats that he could have "made bank" by selling the cables to China or Russia but that he did not because the data "belong in the public domain."
Although most of the leaks are admitted, Manning denies that he intended to disclose a "global address list" of more than 74,000 soldiers stationed in Iraq.
On May 7, 2010, WikiLeaks fired off a Tweet to get as many U.S. military email addresses as possible. Fein said that Manning "jumped at the opportunity" to comply, downloading a trove of addresses three days later.
This information could hypothetically arm hackers with a "phone book for exploitation" through "spear-phishing" attacks and social-engineering schemes, Fein said. The prosecution has provided no evidence that Manning transmitted the list to anyone, or that any of the theorized cyberattacks followed.
The daylong summations concluded before the defense had the opportunity to begin its remarks. Closing arguments continue Friday, to be followed by deliberations by the Col. Lind.
The judge is expected to deliver verdict before July 31, the tentative start of the sentencing case.