FORT MEADE, Md. -- In testimony from what could be the last prosecution witness during the pre-sentencing phase of Bradley Manning's trial, his one-time supervisor Jihrleah Showman dropped the allegation that the WikiLeaks source once told her that "the flag meant nothing to him."
Showman is a former Army specialist who supervised Manning when he served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, and she and Manning had an often-rocky relationship during their brief time in the service together -- he once punched her in the face. Smelling an 11th-hour trick, Manning's defense attorney immediately sought to call into question the veracity of her statement, which she made for the first time in open court on Friday.
Showman said Manning's comments came during a private counseling session in August 2009, months before they were deployed to Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq. After the soldier told her that he had joined the Army to pay for his education, she said, she sought to probe deeper into his reasons for signing up. Tapping the flag on her uniform's shoulder, she said, she asked Manning what it meant.
"He said the flag meant nothing to him and he did not consider himself to have allegiance to this country," Showman claimed.
As Manning's lawyer David Coombs pointed out on cross-examination, however, "No one was at this conversation besides you and Pfc. Manning … and prior to 2010, the arrest of Pfc. Manning in May of 2011, you never reduced this allegation to writing."
"It would be a serious matter because he had access to classified information," Coombs submitted.
"Correct," Showman acknowledged.
Coombs ticked off a list of reports that Showman had written about Manning: being late to formation, losing his "military bearing," "excessive caffeine consumption." But she never wrote up Manning's supposed disloyal statement -- even though, she said, she even suspected that he might be a spy.
The reason she didn't write the report, Showman said, is that she took the matter to her boss, who "said that he would take care of it."
Hoping to further undermine Showman's testimony, Coombs also brought up a report Manning made where he complained that Showman had made derogatory remarks -- including calling him "faggoty."
Showman responded that she made that statement "in reference to not being able to do pushups, rather than being gay."
Her testimony on Friday was a radical departure from her previous, almost lighthearted appearance during the prosecution's case in chief. Back in June, she said that Manning had bragged about his computer skills and Washington, D.C., "martini parties" he had attended.
Coombs had objected to Showman testifying again, but Judge Denise Lind said she could appear as a rebuttal witness to a Manning confidant who testified about supportive comments he had made about the Army and America's role in web chats.
"i actually believe what the army tries to make itself out to be: a diverse place full of people defending the country," Manning wrote in those February 2009 chats.
As the trial went into recess on Friday, Manning's lawyers and the prosecution were meeting out of court to discuss Showman's interview for the documentary film "We Steal Secrets," which might also call into question her fairness toward Manning. In the movie she brags about her "15-inch biceps" and frankly explains that "I was the last person he probably should have punched."
UPDATE: 3:15 p.m -- Despite acknowledging that at one point during their deployment she had called Manning "faggoty," Showman stated later on Friday, on re-direct questioning from prosecutor Cpt. Angel Overgaard, that she could have -- but did not -- aggressively seek to have Manning discharged from the military under its "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gay soldiers from serving, which was still in effect at the time. She said she also knew gay people in the Army whom she counted as friends.