Pfc. Bradley E. Manning's attorney raised questions about the former Army analyst's mental health and whether his superiors adequately probed his fitness to serve in Iraq as the defense opened its case in the sentencing portion of his trial Monday.
Manning, 25, was convicted last month of espionage, theft and disobeying regulations for giving more than 700,000 war logs and diplomatic cables as well as battlefield video footage to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
The former Marylander could be sentenced to up to 90 years in prison.
Defense attorney David Coombs questioned seven witnesses about a series of emotional outbursts by Manning — including one in which he overturned a table and had to be restrained — and whether the unit's leadership ignored those potential problems because they had too few intelligence analysts to carry out their mission.
"We were having a problem meeting strength. There was pressure on the whole unit to deploy," said retired Maj. Clifford Clausen, who led the brigade's intelligence branch but was later removed from the position for what others testified was an inability to communicate with senior leaders.
Manning, who did not testify during his trial, is expected to make a statement as early as Wednesday in some form, his attorneys have said. His court-martial has drawn worldwide attention to the small courtroom at Fort Meade, where Army Col. Denise Lind has heard the case without a jury.
To some, Manning is a whistle-blower whose release of video footage of a U.S. helicopter crew killing civilians in Baghdad revealed evidence of a war crime. To others, he is a traitor whose release of classified materials endangered American lives.
The sentencing portion of Manning's trial continued Monday as Nobel Prize committee officials confirmed they had received a petition claiming 100,000 signatures in support of giving him the coveted award. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire nominated Manning for the prize in June.
Attorneys for Manning and the government have been debating the effect of those leaked documents on military operations and diplomatic efforts. But Monday's testimony took a different tack as defense attorneys raised questions about their client's mental health and whether the Army did enough to address it.
Lind, ruling over Coombs' objections, said the defense must turn over portions of an assessment of Manning's mental health made by Department of Defense officials.
Col. David Miller, the commander of Manning's brigade, said that brief interactions left him with the impression that the junior analyst was "squared away" and "articulate." He said he was not aware of the table-throwing incident until after Manning was arrested for the leaked documents.
"A soldier flipping a table isn't something that would [rise] to the brigade" command level, he said. There is "a whole layer of command that can deal with that."'
But Capt. Matthew Freeburg, the company commander, told the court he was surprised more wasn't done to reprimand Manning after the incident. "I did find it ... little bit strange that something more severe than just having Manning going to behavioral health appointments — [that] something more than that hadn't been done," Freeburg said.
The Manning case has unfolded as disclosures by another young intelligence worker have fueled a broader debate in Washington and among the public over national security, government secrecy and privacy rights.
Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed details of secret U.S. telephone and Internet surveillance programs, called Manning "a classic whistle-blower."
Manning, who served as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010, has acknowledged giving the classified materials to WikiLeaks. The group posted the footage of the 2007 helicopter attack, in which U.S. crew members can be heard referring to "dead bastards" and laughing.
At a pretrial hearing, Manning said he wanted to provoke a public debate about U.S. military and foreign policy.
Lind found him not guilty last month of aiding the enemy, the most serious charge against him, which by itself could have meant a life sentence. But she found Manning guilty of 20 other charges, for which he faces the prospect of decades in prison.
The Oklahoma native lived with an aunt in Potomac and studied at Montgomery College before he enlisted in the Army in 2007. He has been detained since 2010, when he was arrested in Baghdad.
Security surrounding the trial appeared to be tighter Monday after a video of the proceedings was surreptitiously recorded and posted on the Internet last week. Military police checked the bags of journalists before they entered an annex room on the base where the trial is being displayed.
twitter.com/jfritzeCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun