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Attorney: Manning showed signs of distress in Iraq

Bradley ManningJustice SystemWikiLeaksIraqFort Meade (military base)Espionage Act of 1917

Military prosecutors building a case against the 24-year-old Army soldier accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks sought to show Saturday that Pfc. Bradley Manning had access to the secret documents and the ability to share them with the world.

Defense attorneys spent little time challenging Manning's retrieval of the information, but instead used the government witnesses to draw a picture of a bright but deeply troubled soldier who was allowed to poke through a trove of top-secret information even after showing clear signs of emotional distress.

"Pfc. Manning's military leadership failed him," said Special Agent Troy Bettencourt, a military investigator who worked on the case but is now employed by the Treasury Department. "I would like to think that had I been in the chain of command, I would have done things differently."

Saturday's testimony took place on the second day of a military hearing at Fort Meade to determine whether the case against Manning should proceed to a court-martial. He is charged with aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to life in prison. Further testimony is expected Sunday.

Manning wore green camouflage fatigues and scribbled notes on a legal pad or sat back in his chair. Before he was escorted from the courtroom for a morning recess, Manning flipped over his notepad so it could not be read.

The courtroom contained three benches for members of the public. The space was mostly empty in the morning but filled as the day went on. One onlooker wore a shirt that said "Free Bradley Manning." Another wore a blouse with a rhinestone peace sign on the back.

The first three government witnesses were military investigators involved with various stages of the probe. Special Agent Mark Mander matched chat logs found on Manning's computer with ones found on the computer of Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who turned information about Manning over to government authorities.

Another government witness, Capt. Steven Lim, one of Manning's superiors in Iraq, identified searches he believed Manning did on government databases — using keywords that Manning would not need for his regular intelligence duties in Iraq. He said they included: "WikiLeaks," "Julian Assange" (WikiLeaks' founder) and "Guantanamo Bay detainee assessments."

Defense attorneys pressed several witnesses on whether there had been any investigative focus on Manning's issues of gender identity, saying the line of questioning gets at Manning's "state of mind" and whether he had "diminished capacity" at the time the government has accused him of leaking the materials.

Special Agent Toni Graham confirmed that Manning had few friends in his Iraq-based unit and kept a folder of articles on gender identity disorder in his sleeping quarters, including one partially titled "flight into hypermasculinity." Special Agent Calder Robertson testified that Manning maintained an alter-ego called "Breanna Manning."

Government prosecutors repeatedly objected. But the defense pressed on.

"It goes to the issues he was facing," said Capt. Matthew Kemkes, one of Manning's attorneys. "What was going on in my client's mind was very important."

Defense attorneys also tried to put Manning's superiors on trial. Lim confirmed details about an email Manning sent to another officer that included a picture of Manning dressed as a woman. The email included a plea that his confusion about his gender was preventing him from thinking clearly.

Lim testified that he did not learn of the email until after Manning was detained but said its contents were alarming enough to merit removing his security clearance.

Lim also testified that the private was disciplined for flipping a table but was not moved out of his classified role. "We needed the analysts to help us continue to work," Lim said.

Testimony included a primer on WikiLeaks, with Bettencourt noting how aggressively the site seeks information and how easy it is to post documents.

Jennifer Robinson, an attorney for Assange, attended the hearing, saying "it is very clear" that issues raised could have "ramifications that may be relevant to the ongoing grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange."

One matter was resolved. On Friday, lead defense attorney David E. Coombs had requested that Reserve Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the investigating officer presiding over the hearing, be removed. Coombs had argued that Almanza's civilian work at the Justice Department poses a conflict.

Almanza denied the initial request Friday afternoon. An Army Court of Criminal Appeals upheld that decision Friday night.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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    Bradley ManningJustice SystemWikiLeaksIraqFort Meade (military base)Espionage Act of 1917
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