Manning Court-Martial Looks at Pakistan Issue in Secret

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – The publication of cables leaked by Pfc. Bradley Manning stirred up relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, a two-star general said in the non-classified portion of his testimony Tuesday.
     Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, the deputy commander of the U.S. defense attache in Pakistan, did not refer to any particular cables or their contents in the public portion of his testimony.
     Rather, he spoke only generally about U.S.-Pakistan relations during his tenure at the Office of Defense Representative to Pakistan from July 2009 to September 2011.
     “It was a very positive trajectory at the time,” he said. “It was not without problems. It was not without difficulties. It was not without friction. But in general it was a positive trajectory and increasingly so.”
     He credited the improvement in those relations to the Pakistani military’s growing awareness that its struggle with extremist group’s posed an “existential threat to the survival of the nation,” and its need for a superpower’s help in fighting that threat.
     The U.S. also earned goodwill from alleviating the humanitarian crisis caused by floods that submerged roughly one-fifth of the country in fall 2010, he added.
     This diplomatic cachet was critical to U.S. national security interests in keeping stability in a nuclear power, Nagata said. His response as to how the release of the cables affected that relationship, however, was cagey in open court.
     The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, asked: “Sir, do you recall becoming aware that purported Department of State information had been released publicly in November and December 2010?”
     “I do, indeed,” Nagata replied.
     “Without disclosing classified information in an open session, did you observe any impact to the mission of the ODRP in this timeframe as a result of the releases?” Fein asked.
     “I did,” the general said.
     The parties then moved into a classified session.
     Of the more than 250,000 State Department telegrams that WikiLeaks published under Cablegate, prosecutors have charged Manning only with the release of 117 such cables.
     Of this subset, only one telegram is from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
     Dated Jan. 25, 1999, and marked “Confidential,” it bears the subject line: “Public Diplomacy: Usama bin Laden.” Public Diplomacy Counselor Richard Hoagland told Foggy Bottom in the cable’s summary , “It is our impression that the [U.S. government] is not doing as well as it might projecting public diplomacy on Usama bin Ladin.”
     Brady Kiesling, a former 20-year diplomat who resigned in protest to the Iraq War, said in a phone interview that he was “mystified” as to why this 14-year-old telegram was selected among the charged cables.
     “It’s a confession in 1999 that we seem to be losing the propaganda war and the Taliban are outsmarting us, which is remarkable to read in a U.S. cable, but I would say that it’s touching humility rather than a damaging confession of weakness,” he said.
     There were no charged cables from Washington to Islamabad, nor do there appear to have been charged cables from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi that discussed topics sensitive to India’s relations with Pakistan.
     It is unclear whether prosecutors must limit their testimony and evidence during sentencing only to those cables that Manning is charged with releasing, or hundreds of thousands of others with which he has not been charged.
     In the immediate wake of the releases, The New York Times reported that Pakistani newspapers took particular interest in revelations of attack and surveillance drones over South Waziristan, and a disparaging look at the country’s politics and judiciary.

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