iOS app Android app More

Bradley Manning: WikiLeaks Suspect's Status As Gay Soldier Is Key To Defense

Bradley Manning

DAVID DISHNEAU and PAULINE JELINEK   12/18/11 08:08 PM ET   AP

FORT MEADE, Md. — A computer-crimes investigator testified Sunday he found more than 10,000 diplomatic cables and other sensitive information on the work computer of the Army private charged with spilling a mountain of secrets to WikiLeaks.

Moreover, Special Agent David Shaver told a military hearing he discovered evidence that someone had used the computer to streamline the downloading of the cables with the apparent aim of "moving them out."

It was the government's first hard evidence linking Pfc. Bradley Manning with the wealth of confidential government information that showed up on WikiLeaks: battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, diplomatic communications, a military video showing a U.S. helicopter attack that killed 11 men, and more.

Shaver's appearance capped the third day of a hearing that will determine whether Manning will be court-martialed on 22 charges, including aiding the enemy. The testimony was potentially the most damaging so far.

Shaver said the material he found at the intelligence analyst's workstation in Iraq was all linked to the username bradley.manning or Manning's user profile.

He said he examined two computers that were assigned to Manning while he was working in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.

The other machine, he said, contained evidence that someone had conducted more than 100 searches using the keywords "WikiLeaks" and "Julian Assange," the organization's leader.

Those terms seemed "out of place" on a computer that was used for analyzing intelligence about Iraq, said Shaver, who is to be cross examined by Manning's defense Monday.

Shaver told the hearing that in addition to the cables, he found assessments of Guantanamo Bay terrorist detainees and several versions of the 2007 helicopter attack video on Manning's computer.

Manning's lawyers have neither acknowledged nor denied that the intelligence analyst was behind the leaks.

Instead, they have pressed the government to explain why Manning remained entrusted with access to highly sensitive information after showing hostile behavior to those around him. A supervisor who might have shed light on that question Sunday refused to testify.

Manning, a 24-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., could face life in prison if convicted.

In camouflaged fatigues and dark rimmed-glasses, he sat mostly forward for the third straight day, appearing calm, listening intently to the witnesses and occasionally writing on paper in front of him. He didn't speak Sunday except for the few occasions he leaned over to consult with his civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, each time first switching off the defense table microphone for privacy.

Manning's defense sought to build on its case that his supervisors on the 2nd Brigade Combat Team should have seen enough red flags to suspend or revoke his access to secret information months before the leaks.

Capt. Casey Fulton, an Army intelligence officer, testified Sunday it was impossible to supervise analysts such as Manning constantly. "You have to trust that they'll safeguard the material the way that they've been taught," she said.

The defense has emphasized what it regards as a failure by Manning's closest supervisor, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Adkins, to suspend the intelligence security clearance after at least two fits of rage by the private during which he overturned furniture.

Adkins refused to testify Sunday, invoking his right against self-incrimination, when summoned by the government.

Other testimony revealed that Manning was sometimes angry and distant with others from his unit. The defense has said that Manning, who is gay, was bullied by fellow soldiers. Manning's defense team says he told Adkins he suffered from gender-identity disorder – the belief that he was born the wrong sex.

Manning is accused of illegally leaking a trove of secret information that surfaced on the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. The breach rattled U.S. foreign relations and, according to the government, imperiled valuable military and diplomatic sources. Defense attorneys argue the leaked material did little or no damage to U.S. interests.

Fulton provided details of a confrontation that finally got Manning banned from the workplace. She said Spc. Jirhleah Showman grew angry after she was summoned from her bed to work, and saw Manning there, apparently playing a video game.

Fulton said she heard Manning tell Showman to calm down. Fulton testified that she heard terse words exchanged, followed by shuffling sounds, and then saw Showman pinning Manning to the floor.

"She said he had struck her and she had a big red welt on her face," Fulton said.

Another government witness, Sgt. Chad Madaras, testified that Manning was sometimes sullen and unresponsive, especially toward Adkins.

"He would sit down at his work station and kind of ignore everyone," Madaras said under questioning by Coombs.

Madaras said Manning "kind of separated himself from others in the unit." He said he didn't know if Manning was picked on by fellow soldiers.

Capt. Thomas Cherepko, the officer responsible for ensuring the security of the brigade's computers, testified that he received a letter of admonishment for failing to make sure the system was properly certified and accredited.

Cherepko, called as a government witness, said under cross-examination that he found music, video games and movies on a shared computer drive used by intelligence analysts, in violation of security rules. He said he would remove the material but it would soon be put back on.

Cherepko said he informed his supervisor of the problem but wasn't aware of anyone being disciplined for it before Manning's arrest.

In late afternoon Sunday, the presiding officer ordered the hearing closed to the news media for a discussion about testimony by a coming witness that could include classified information. It was the first time since the hearing began Friday that Lt. Col. Paul Almanza closed the courtroom.

The hearing is at Fort Meade outside Washington and could run several more days. The Army says it may take several more weeks for the commander of the Military District of Washington to decide whether Manning will be court-martialed.

Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington may choose other courses, including administrative punishment or dismissal of some or all counts. He also could add more charges based on evidence produced at the hearing.

Courtroom spectators dwindled by about half Sunday to some two dozen people, compared with the group that filled the 50 or so seats on the opening day.

Sitting on the left side of the courtroom behind the defense table were several Manning supporters who have planned rallies for him and raised money for his defense, celebrating what they regard as a courageous act of whistleblowing.

Among the material Manning is accused of leaking is a military video of a 2007 American helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver.

Fulton testified that sometime before WikiLeaks released the video in April 2010, she saw a similar clip on a work station computer in Baghdad. She said Manning later showed her that the WikiLeaks clip and the one she had seen were the same.

She testified that Manning had a "top secret" security clearance, enabling him to view a wide range of classified material. His job was to synthesize intelligence from those sources.

FOLLOW HUFFPOST GAY VOICES

Filed by Curtis M. Wong  |