Fort Meade, Md. Lawyers for the Army intelligence analyst blamed for the biggest national security leak in American history briskly presented evidence in his defense Wednesday, a year-and-half after the young private allegedly handed a trove of classified data to WikiLeaks.
Pfc. Bradley Manning's defense rested its case after calling only two witnesses: a sergeant who witnessed one of Manning's fits of rage in Baghdad and a captain whom the 24-year-old Oklahoma native served under in Iraq.
The hearing was recessed until closing arguments Thursday.
Defense lawyers painted Manning as a troubled young man who shouldn't have had access to classified material, let alone served in Iraq. Their witnesses corroborated that he was prone to emotional outbursts and that military computer security was lax at Manning's Baghdad office.
Manning is accused of illegally downloading hundreds of thousands of U.S. war and diplomatic cables and a classified military video of an American helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 11 men. The government argues he then sent the data to the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website in a breach that rattled U.S. foreign relations and imperiled valuable military and diplomatic sources.
The government rested its case against Manning on Tuesday after calling 21 witnesses over five days of proceedings at a military base outside Washington. It wants Manning court-martialed on charges including aiding the enemy. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Prosecution witnesses said Manning was well trained in rules prohibiting release of classified information. Forensic computer experts testified that they had retraced his keyboard strokes as he downloaded secret State Department diplomatic cables and raw battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker, said Manning confided to him in May 2010 that he was the leaker. Lamo informed authorities.
After closing arguments, presiding officer Lt. Col. Paul Almanza will give his opinion of whether Manning should be court-martialed. Then, a senior military officer will make the final decision. The process could take several weeks.
During the proceedings, Manning remained outwardly composed as witness after witness talked about his emotional problems, his homosexuality and his violent and crazed-sounding outbursts while still in the United States and during his tour of duty in Iraq from late 2009 to mid-2010.
A half-dozen buttoned-down, mostly young men and women favoring charcoal-colored suits have come and gone from gallery seats behind the prosecutor's table, declining to identify themselves to journalists but apparently representing the Justice Department, the CIA or other government agencies.
Across the room are Manning's supporters, including a long-haired young man from the Occupy Wall Street movement and a pony-tailed, elderly military veteran wearing a "Free Bradley Manning" T-shirt.
Attorneys representing WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange also observed, as did an Amnesty International representative. A handful of journalists were also present while dozens of others watched from a separate building on closed-circuit TV.