Al-Qaida Focus as Prosecution Phase Nears End in Manning Trial

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – Osama bin Laden’s use of WikiLeaks took focus in hushed proceedings as the government wrapped up its case against Pfc. Bradley Manning, whom they claim “aided the enemy” through a massive leak of state secrets.
     Months before his trial, the 25-year-old soldier acknowledged he uploaded more than 700,000 files, including diplomatic cables, incident reports from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, profiles of Guantanamo detainees, and a video of an airstrike in Baghdad that WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder.”
     Manning says that he sent the files unsolicited to spark national and international conversations about the way the U.S. conducts war and diplomacy. His supporters hail him as a whistle-blower who exposed crimes and corruption that Washington would have preferred to remain hidden.
     Prosecutors claim that he effectively started working for WikiLeaks when he was stationed in Iraq, using the website’s 2009 “Most-Wanted Leaks” as his guide. The crowd-sourced document allows users to add leaks they believe to be the most sought after by journalists, activists, historians, lawyers, police or human rights investigators of a given country.
     The government authenticated that list for the first time on Monday, after an initial failed attempt.
     Although Manning insists he chose low-sensitivity files for release, prosecutors began wrapping up their case by offering evidence and testimony intended to show that the data had value to America’s enemies and foreign intelligence services.
     During the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a secret prosecution witness presumed to be a Navy Seal found letters indicating that the late al-Qaida chief had requested and received Afghanistan “war logs” and State Department information.
     With neither party disputing this information, the government entered the stipulation saying so into the record on Monday.
     It is not publicly known whether the court has received classified testimony by the secret witness.
     The parties also agreed that al-Qaida spokesman Adam Gadahn excerpted a clip of the Baghdad airstrike video in an official statement. Gadahn also urged his followers to cull anything “useful from WikiLeaks” against the U.S. “enemy” in an issue of the propaganda magazine, Inspire.
     Cmdr. Youssef Aboul-Enein, an officer for the Navy Medical Services Corp, served as the government’s expert on al-Qaida, discussing the group’s history from the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to the present day.
     Aboul-Enein’s testimony did not appear to directly implicate Manning, who waived his right to have his attorneys confront this witness on the stand.
     Daniel Lewis, who is believed to be the government’s last witness, faced far stiffer opposition from Manning’s lawyers.
     Called as an expert on counterintelligence and espionage, prosecutors want Lewis to opine on how much a foreign intelligence service might pay for files that WikiLeaks published. Defense attorneys meanwhile have attacked Lewis’ qualifications to speak on this topic.
     Lewis claims he picked up this expertise as one of the top 10 most experienced counterintelligence officials out of the slightly more than 3,000 that he estimates the Department of Defense employs.
     The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, questioned him about his lengthy resume in such detail that one of Manning’s defenders, Maj. Thomas Hurley, interrupted to propose having the government offer “Mr. Lewis’s CV as a prosecution exhibit.”
     The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, replied, “I’ll let the government present their case as they choose.”
     An unofficial transcript shows that Fein’s examination stretched more than 20 pages after that remark.
     Despite this experience, Lewis admitted on the stand that he told defense attorneys he did not consider himself an expert in assigning a value to classified information.
     “Mr. Lewis, ever taken any classes – civilian or military classes – in valuing classified information for a foreign intelligence service?” Maj. Hurley asked.
     “Don’t believe that course exists,” Lewis said. “No.”
     Lewis said in 29 years of counterintelligence, he has never encountered someone with this expertise.
     “Normally the Foreign Service office values the information, they’re the ones that determine the value to them,” he said.
     Picking up that point, Hurley asked: “For want of a better word, Mr. Lewis, the bad guys do that, don’t they?”
     “Yes,” Lewis replied.
     Under pugnacious cross-examination, Lewis acknowledged that no court ever has qualified him to testify as an expert on counterintelligence, though he had been previously sworn in as a fact witness.
     Toward the end of day, the parties wrestled more over Lewis’ credentials behind closed doors for a classified session. His testimony will continue today (Tuesday), when the prosecution’s case is expected to wrap up. The defense’s case is expected to begin after the July 4 weekend.

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