Manning Insulted the Flag, Witness Avers Publicly for First Time

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – Pfc. Bradley Manning said he had no allegiance to the U.S. flag or nation, his former supervisor testified Friday for the first time in public court, her third time on the stand.
     In their case in chief, several government witnesses said they found no evidence that Manning expressed any “anti-American” beliefs. Prosecutors are beginning to elicit such testimony for the first time in their rebuttal case to support a conviction of “aiding the enemy.”
     Trial evidence has shown that Manning, a 5-foot-2, gay intellectual during the time of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, endured ridicule and alienation from other soldiers in his unit.
     His interactions were particularly rocky with a former supervisor, ex-Spc. Jihrleah Showman.
     Showman has admitted that she called Manning “faggotty” for not being able to do many push-ups, and Manning’s online chat history shows that he privately talked about having punched Showman, whom he called a “dyke,” in the face.
     Lead defense attorney David Coombs played a clip from the documentary “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” to demonstrate the tension between the two soldiers. “I couldn’t believe he messed with me,” Showman says in the film. “I literally have 15-inch biceps. I’m probably the last person he should have punched.”
     In her third time taking the stand Friday, Showman made an allegation that had previously been withheld from open court.
     “He said the flag meant nothing to him, and that he considered himself not to have allegiance to this country or any people,” Showman said, describing a conversation she allegedly had with Manning in August 2009.
     She noted that she gave this testimony before in closed court session.
     Showman said she reported the comment to Master Sgt. Paul Adkins, and that she also told this supervisor that she called Manning a “possible spy.”
     Adkins allegedly ignored both reports, taking no action to keep someone deemed disloyal from accessing a top-secret clearance.
     On cross-examination, Showman admitted that she never noted the flag incident in her supervisory reports.
     Coombs asked Showman if she had ever heard the Army motto, “If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.”
     Showman agreed that she heard of the saying.
     This is apparently not the first time that Showman had trouble remembering to report Manning’s alleged sentiment about the flag.
     The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division interviewed Showman multiple times after Manning’s arrest in May 2010, but Showman did not relate the flag incident until her second interview in April 2011.
     As for the first interview, in March 2011, Showman told the court Friday: “I don’t remember anything that was said in that interview. Nothing.”
     She also claimed to have a spotty memory of her stint on the silver screen, saying that she did not even know, until her parents told her, that the Alex Gibney documentary was released a month before Manning’s trial.
     Coombs suggested that Showman’s appearance in the film was evidence of her personal vendetta to embarrass Manning on the eve of his trial.
     Without specifically identifying it as an outtake from “We Steal Secrets,” Coombs also rolled tape of audio depicting Showman telling an interviewer: “That’s not a whistle-blower. That’s someone who, in my opinion, has no allegiance to this country.”
     It is unclear how Manning’s defense obtained the outtake.
     Showman insisted on the stand that she was referring to anyone who leaked classified information to a foreigner, rather Manning.
     Coombs also confronted Showman with a Sept. 12, 2012, Twitter post in which she called Manning and his supporters “ignorant.”
     “Ignorant people break the rules and say it’s honorable,” Showman wrote. “Ignorant thoughtless followers support Manning without even knowing the truth.”
     Showman told the court that this post was an emotional reaction to threats Manning supporters allegedly made against herself and her family.
     She agreed that the goading Tweet would hardly defuse the alleged harassment.
     On redirect, Capt. Angel Overgaard, one of the prosecutors, elicited testimony, over defense objections, about Manning engaging in what she called “homosexual acts” in Washington, D.C.
     The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, allowed the testimony, which prosecutors said would undermine the inference that Showman was homophobic.
     After hearing the report, Showman said she supported Manning, but told him not to tell her about his sexuality because of the Army’s then-policy to discharge openly gay soldiers.
     Coombs cast doubt on that statement by stating that allowing Manning to keep such a secret would be a security risk, as it would allow him to be blackmailed.
     Manning’s defense team had not wanted Showman to take the stand again, noting her failure to make this claim in the government’s initial case and saying that the remark exceeds the scope of the defense’s case.
     Col. Lind, who is hearing the case without a jury, disagreed that the testimony is “sandbagging” the defense. An “aiding the enemy” conviction carries a potential life sentence without the possibility of parole, and the other 21 counts add up to 154 years.
     The former master sergeant whom Showman claimed to have notified about the flag remark took the stand later Friday. In the wake of Manning’s arrest, the military demoted Adkins to sergeant first class.
     Adkins said that he took a fall nearly a decade ago in Iraq that left him with memory lapses and “lost time,” marring his testimony.
     The sergeant squinted, nearly shutting his eyes behind a pair of thick glasses, and took lengthy pauses before answering each question the lawyers posed to him.
     Though Adkins said he had no memory of Showman coming to him about the flag remark, he said that it would be something that he typically would have recorded in a “derog.” Short for derogatory report, these documents alert the Army of a red flag concerning somebody with a security clearance.
     Prosecutor Overgaard then told Adkins that he had recorded it one time, on June 23, 2011, at an administrative hearing to appeal his demotion.
     Identifying the document, Adkins said: “The statement was composed by dictation with one of my lawyers. When he completed writing the statement, I read it, and at the time, determined it to be accurate and signed it.”
     Adkins swore in the statement that he had “reservations about deploying Spc. Manning” based on the “disloyal statements” he allegedly made to Showman.
     He acknowledged that his lawyer handwrote the document, and that he signed it to remain a master sergeant.
     Adkins had nevertheless been silent on the issue in three sworn statements to Manning’s attorneys a year earlier – June 10, July 3 and July 15, 2010.
     Coombs questioned Adkins about whether his “memory gets better or worse in time, or does it change.”
     “I don’t know if it fluctuates,” Adkins said. “I’m still going through the evaluation process, but I would say that there’s still fluctuation in my memory that might or might not be related to time.”
     Chief Warrant Officer 1 Kyle Balonek, the top of Showman’s chain of command, also had no recollection of Showman’s allegation. He attested to Showman’s reputation for truthfulness to prosecutors, but he acknowledged to the defense that he did not know her very well.
     Meanwhile, Manning’s defense made headway in tossing a handful of claims that he stole U.S. “databases.”
     The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, acknowledged that two of these databases in particular, from the Iraq and Afghanistan battlefields, contained several categories of files that Manning never disclosed. The young soldier leaked “significant action reports,” or SigActs, which he said he believed to be low-sensitivity documents safe for release. Government witnesses testified that several categories of more sensitive files existed.
     Lind did not rule on the issue but indicated that this part of the prosecution’s charge sheet against Manning may be deficient.
     Both sides rested Friday afternoon, and Col. Lind set closing arguments to begin on July 25. The judge expects to reach her verdict before July 31, the date that the sentencing phase is slated to begin.
     Manning, a former intelligence specialist, admits to having leaked more than 700,000 files including diplomatic cables, incident reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, profiles of Guantanamo detainees, and a video of a Baghdad airstrike that WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder.”
     His lawyers call the young soldier a “young, naïve but good-intentioned” humanist who wanted to spark widespread debate, reforms, and reportage about the way the U.S. conducts warfare and diplomacy. His supporters herald him as a whistle-blower and fill the gallery every day of his trial with T-shirts emblazoned with the word “Truth.”
     

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