FORT MEADE, Md. (CN) – A day after witnesses testified that Pfc. Bradley Manning felt isolated in the Army as a male soldier who has identified as female, gay icon Lt. Dan Choi attended Manning’s hearing in support of the alleged Wikileaks source.
Choi, who publicly opposed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, spoke at a Saturday rally marking Manning’s 24th birthday.
“When someone stands for integrity, no matter if you’re gay or seeing a war crime, it shows what strength a human being can have,” Lt. Choi told Courthouse News in an interview outside the courtroom.
Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of confidential documents. Wikileaks has called the trove by various names, including “Cablegate,” for diplomatic cables; Iraq and Afghanistan “War Diaries,” for incident reports; and “Collateral Murder,” a video of a July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrike that killed 8 people, including two Reuters photographers.
On Saturday, a witness testified that the “Collateral Murder” video was not classified.
Later Saturday, testimony turned to Manning’s emotional state during the time he was alleged to have taken the documents.
Manning’s attorney David Coombs said that Manning called himself “Breanna,” with an attached picture of himself wearing a dress, in an email sent to his superior officer Sgt. 1st Class Paul Adkins.
In the age of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Manning responded by flipping over tables, damaging a military computer, throwing a chair across a room, curling up in a ball, and requiring restraints as others feared he might reach for a gun, Coombs said. This behavior led superiors to describe him as “troubled.”
Adkins did not respond to these incidents, and let Manning keep the security clearance that gave him access to the leaked files, Coombs said.
Capt. Steven Lim, who was drawn into the investigation after Manning’s arrest, said Manning should have been disciplined.
“I thought it was a little odd, being a commander, the lack of response to that incident,” Lim said. “At least, I would have done a derogatory information.”
Late Sunday, forensic expert David Shaver introduced the evidence at the heart of the prosecutors’ case – a compressed file that had 10,000 State Department cables on Manning’s computer, and keyword searches of “Wikileaks,” “Assange,” and “Iceland.”
Military prosecutors say Manning sent Wikileaks a “test” document, a diplomatic cable dated Jan. 13, 2010, from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Feb. 18, 2010.
The government says the leaks constituted “aiding the enemy,” a charge that carries a potential death sentence, though prosecutors say they are seeking a life sentence.
Choi, dressed in uniform, told Courthouse News that military prosecutors will have to “prove that Wikileaks was an enemy.”
Throughout the proceedings, Manning has sat calmly taking notes beside his defense attorneys.
“He’s sort of like a mythological figure,” Choi said. “The very fact that he’s alive, and he’s standing.”
Amnesty International called Manning’s July 2010 maximum-security custody and solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Va. harsh and punitive. He was later transferred to a medium-security facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Security has been tight at Ft. Meade since the proceedings began, and military prosecutors closed proceedings for a short time on Sunday.
At one point, a prosecutor wanted to display a piece of evidence that he said was not classified, but had been marked secret. He said he was advised not to show it.
Under military rules, this reporter had to interview Lt. Choi outside the view of press cameramen and photographers.
“The image, they’re trying to control it,” Choi said.
Choi also discussed the importance of rigorously questioning those who testify against the accused.
“Habeas corpus is important,” Choi said. “Even in military justice you have a right to question the witness.”
Investigating officer Paul Almanza, who will determine whether the charges against Manning can proceed to court martial, granted prosecutors’ request to close court again on Monday morning, over Coombs’ objections. But the proceedings have remained largely open.
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