Manning Defense Rolls Tape|as Their Side Kicks Off

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – Raw footage of the Baghdad airstrike that killed two Reuters employees aired for the first time in military court as Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army soldier who exposed it, launched his defense Monday.
     On July 12, 2007, the crew of the Apache helicopter gunned down an estimated 12 civilians, including freelance photojournalist Namir Noor-Edeen and his driver, Saeed Chmagh.
     The entire incident had been recorded on the helicopter’s cockpit video, a portion of which Wikileaks released under the name “Collateral Murder.”
     WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange, who published the full version and an 18-minute cut, said that it showed evidence of a war crime.
     In a statement delivered before trial, Manning said he had been disturbed by the “seemingly delightful bloodlust” of the gunners pursuing the wounded men in their crosshairs.
     The Pentagon insisted that the edit was misleading and defended the conduct of the crew by stating that the gunners mistook the journalists’ cameras for weapons during heavy fighting in Baghdad.
     Attorneys for Manning chose to open the defense’s case by presenting the unedited footage.
     The attacks on the Reuters employees occur early on during the 39-minute video, but the remainder of the tape does not appear to show much combat other than the Apache firing upon what appear to be vacant buildings.
     The video is just one of the more than 700,000 files leaked by Manning that prosecutors claim “aided the enemy,” allegedly by demonstrating how the helicopters and crew operate.
     Manning’s lead attorney, David Coombs, aimed to dismiss that charge on Monday morning, filing motions seeking a ruling of “not guilty” on several of the 22 counts against the 25-year0old private.
     Those motions have not yet been publicly released, and it is not yet known how many charges are being sought for dismissal.
     Prosecutors are expected to respond by the end of this week.
     
     “Our Best Analyst, By Far”
     Meanwhile, the defense started calling witnesses with Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Ehresman, who oversaw all of the intelligence reports in Manning’s unit in Iraq.
     “He was our best analyst by far when it came to developing products,” Ehresman said, referring to Manning.
     Some of the young private’s assignments included analyzing trends in Iraqi elections and creating “density plots” of IED attacks to ferret out patterns.
     Despite being the “go-to guy” in his unit for interpreting the data, Manning was “weak” in drawing conclusions from that information, Ehresman added.
     Manning was also the most curious, the next witness testified.
     Sgt. David Sadtler, a slender soldier from the battalion, said he spoke with Manning, a member of the brigade, on only a “few occasions.”
     Still, he noticed that Manning had a wider interest in international affairs than his colleagues.
     “The staff in the brigade would come to him if they wanted to know what’s going on in the world,” Sadtler said, referring to Manning.
     During one conversation, Manning appeared upset about an article that he had translated about the Iraqi Federal Police.
     Manning became disillusioned with his deployment after a superior officer told him to ignore signs that the Iraqi Federal Police had imprisoned and tortured political dissidents decrying financial corruption, according to web chats entered into evidence.
     Sadtler testified that he shrugged off the concern, and that he noticed Manning seemed upset by the reaction.
     “He had a deep belief in the news and what was going on, whereas other people were more concerned about going about their day,” Sadtler said.
     Indeed, Manning said in a statement that his “insatiable curiosity” led him to browse the database of diplomatic files that he leaked, which was published under the name “Cablegate.”
     Prosecutors say this inquisitiveness led Manning to “exceed authorized access” to the database of little value to an analyst of the Iraqi battleground.
     Capt. Steve Lim, the unit’s security officer, undermined that position by testifying that he personally encouraged to soldiers to browse the database to break their “tunnel vision.”
     “I gave the link to all of my analysts to kind of broaden their horizons and kind of get rid of their tunnel vision of looking at just what the enemy is doing on the ground,” Lim said. “We need to take a step back and look at the larger picture what was going on, specifically with reconciliation in Iraq.”
     To convict on the top count, prosecutors need to prove that Manning knew that adversaries of the U.S. would read the files that WikiLeaks published, and find the leaks helpful.
     But Lim said he never heard anything about U.S. enemies reading WikiLeaks in “any official capacity.”
     What about an “unofficial capacity?” Coombs asked.
     “Just what I see on television and in the media,” Lim replied.
     Manning said he specifically chose low-sensitivity categories of data to upload to WikiLeaks with an eye on U.S. security.
     The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, suggested that Manning should have known that was not true for the battlefield incident reports, known as SigActs.
     Yet several witnesses have backed Manning’s contention that these records consisted of historical data rather than plans or analysis.
     Typically, SigActs do not contain the names of intelligence sources and methods, but prosecutors say that depends on the definition of a “source.” Lim agreed that the reports would sometimes memorialize a “key leader engagement” between, for example, a general and a local and national sheik.
     Coombs countered that one-time sources, or “contacts,” in intelligence parlance, are not always sensitive information.
     “Do you put any stock or trust in one-time sources?” he asked.
     Lim replied that he did not.
     Later, Coombs added, “Is everyone who speaks to us on the ground, are they the good guys?”
     “Not always, sir,” Lim said.
     
     “Very Well-Formed and Complex Opinions”
     Though Manning has been caricatured as a “hero” or a “traitor” in the public discourse, a former online buddy of the soldier testified Monday that Manning showed “very well-formed and complex opinions” when they chatted about military service, terrorist recruiting and Guantanamo Bay.
     Defense attorneys called online personality and Winter Springs, Fla., resident Lauren McNamara to the stand late Monday. McNamara, who also goes by the pen name Zinnia Jones, said her chats with Manning revealed him as a thoughtful soldier who was proud – if ambivalent – of his service.
     Internet chats have played a fateful role in the Manning court-martial.
     Manning’s chats with former hacker turned informant Adrian Lamo led to his discovery as the source of the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
     Prosecutors claim that still-secret chats between Manning and “pressassociation,” an online handle believe to be Julian Assange, show the two collaborating to exploit classified military networks.
     McNamara chatted with manning between February and August 2009, before the soldier was deployed to Iraq or leaked a single document. Defense attorneys offered them to argue that Manning did not fit the profile of someone who intended to aid an enemy.
     At the time of their chats, McNamara’s legal name was Zachary Antolek, as she had not yet transitioned as a woman. The self-described “Queen of Atheism” said that she changed her name early this year “because I’m a woman and I wanted a name that reflected that.”
     She said Manning discovered her as a chat buddy through her YouTube videos, where she sounds off on atheism, politics and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) activism.
     Though Manning currently prefers to be identified as male, the soldier nevertheless explored a female online persona named Breanna months later. He never spoke about that exploration, however, with McNamara.
     Instead, the two chatted about the military, religion and indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay.
     When McNamara warned him to stay safe in his upcoming deployment, Manning replied: “I’m more concerned about making sure that everyone, soldiers, marines, contractor, even the local nationals, get home to their families.”
     Manning identified himself as “liberal” in the chats, but his politics cannot be easily categorized. He criticized politicians and journalists for presenting “black and white,” whereas he said reality existed in “shades of blurry grey.”
     His comments on Guantanamo Bay reflect that philosophy.
     “Well, some of them are actually pretty dangerous indeed,” bradass87 wrote about the detainees, as reproduced by the Guardian. “Some of them weren’t dangerous before, but are now in fact dangerous because we imprisoned them for so long (don’t quote me on that, for the love of my career), and others might, with a little more than an apology would easily fit back into society… who’s who… worryingly, you cant really tell.”
     Manning also offered nuanced views on classified information, one of the prosecutors, Capt. Angel Overgaard, noted.
     “The things we have tried [the detainees] on are classified information, connected with other pieces of classified information,” bradass87 wrote. “So if a trial is done, it might have to be done in some kind of modified trial, where pieces of evidence which are classified are presented only in a classified environment.”
     Overgaard apparently highlighted that passage to argue that this belief should have made Manning pause before leaking what came to be known as the “Guantanamo Files.”
     The last witness of the day, retired Col. Morris Davis, was called to testify that those files, the so-called “Detainee Assessment Briefs,” were of such low sensitivity that they were called “baseball cards.”
     Davis, who was the third chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, said that they were “wildly inaccurate.”
     “We didn’t really use them,” he said.
     Prosecutors fought against his qualification as an expert on the first day of the defense case closed. After lengthy arguments, Col. Denise Lind qualified Davis to testify as an expert on the briefs.

%d bloggers like this: