Leaks Hurt Soldiers’ Morale, Manning’s Commander Said

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – The commander of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s brigade in Iraq testified that a “funeral-like atmosphere fell over that crowd” when word got out about a large security breach coming from within the unit.
     “I was stunned,” said Col. David Miller, Manning’s former brigade commander. “The last thing I anticipated was an internal security breach from one of our own.”
     The breach, as it turned out, was the largest in U.S. history: a collection more than 700,000 military and diplomatic files uncovering secret details from Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and beyond.
     For the most part, Manning has admitted to the disclosures, but he insisted that he leaked categories of low-sensitivity files that he believed would have news value without harming U.S. security. Prosecutors accuse him of “aiding the enemy” by dumping sensitive files indirectly into the hands of Osama bin Laden.
     Col. Miller, like a number of other government witnesses, said he viewed Manning as a “sharp” young analyst. He first met Manning through a program that had novice intelligence specialists brief high-ranking officers as a professional development aid.
     Manning belonged to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Miller said that this unit was tapped as the first to participate in Operation New Dawn, aiming for what he called a “responsible draw-out” of U.S. troops to Iraqi control.
     At the time, indirect fire attacks occurred within the city on a regular basis, and IED attacks rocked the area on an almost daily basis, Miller said.
     Morale nevertheless had been at “one of the highest points” Miller said he remembered in anticipation of the transition.
     “A lot of work went into achieving those goals,” Miller said. “The Iraqi population was cooperating with each other. All of those things were occurring, then out of the blue, we had all of this occur.”
     Troop morale “took a hit,” as soldiers became suspicious of each other, Miller said.
     “To my infantryman’s way of looking at things, trust is at the foundation of everything we do,” he added. “That mutual knowledge that I’ve got you, you’ve got me. That’s how we roll.”
     This vision of camaraderie did not extend to Manning, a 5-foot-4, skinny intellectual who was teased and alienated by his fellow soldiers, trial evidence showed. The teacher in his intelligence training class testified that he had to admonish other students to stop them from mocking Manning during class.
     On cross-examination, Col. Miller admitted how little he knew about the system’s security vulnerabilities. He said he did not know, for example, that the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, low-level troops used came with wide access to State Department cables. He added that he knew of no restrictions as to where soldiers could surf.
     Miller also said that he knew, “in the periphery of my mind,” that soldiers put music, movies and games on a secret military drive to entertain themselves during downtime.
     Manning’s defense attorneys point to these files to depict the unit as lax about informational security because any of the files could contain malicious code.
     Miller justified this entertainment, however, as a way to keep computer-bound intelligence analysts from becoming what he called “FOBBITS,” slang for a hobbit that resides in a military Forward Operating Base.

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