FORT MEADE, Md. -- A computer forensics expert testified on Wednesday that confessed WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning said in a 2010 email exchange that he had "approved" edits to video of a U.S. Army helicopter attack in Iraq that killed two Reuters journalists.
That so-called "Collateral Murder" video was perhaps the most explosive document among the 700,000 that Manning sent to WikiLeaks. The organization's founder, Julian Assange, was criticized for releasing it initially in an edited and shortened form in 2010.
Prosecutor Captain Joe Morrow alleged in his opening statement that Manning "was part of this editing process" for the Apache helicopter video. If the government can show that Manning worked hand in hand with WikiLeaks to edit the video, it will strengthen the prosecution's suggestion that Manning conspired with Assange. That, in turn, could help the government with its larger goal of prosecuting Assange.
Manning's words in the email at hand are ambiguous, but they could hurt him. Army computer forensic investigator Mark Johnson said that sleuthing through Manning's private MacBook, he was able to recover a May 2010 email exchange between Manning and an MIT mathematician named Eric Schmiedl.
In that exchange, Manning said he had "approved the edits without reviewing the video." When and how Manning approved the edits, or how he could evaluate them without watching the video, are unclear.
Manning has said he released the video because it shows the loss of life and the American helicopter pilots' callous attitude toward the victims of the attack, who included two wounded children.
"I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare," he said in a February statement taking responsibility for 10 of the 22 charges against him.
After receiving the Apache video from Manning, Assange huddled with a small crew of activists in April 2010 to edit it. One of those activists, Icelandic Member of Parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir, told HuffPost in an email last week that if Manning contributed anything to the editing, she had never heard of it.
"I worked on every possible aspect of the production of the video and there was never any discussion nor any information that indicated that Manning had been at all involved with the editing process," she wrote.