Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning was looking for "worldwide notoriety" when he gave hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, a military prosecutor said Thursday.
Maj. Ashton Fein, delivering the government's closing argument in Manning's court-martial, said the former intelligence analyst knew from his training the harm that could be caused by releasing classified material to be published on the Internet. Fein said Manning knew that Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and its affiliate in Iraq used the Internet to gather information on the United States.
But the soldier put himself before his country, Fein said, and proceeded with the "wholesale and indiscriminate compromise" of sensitive information, in order to "guarantee his fame."
The portrait sketched by Fein contrasted with the picture the defense has painted of a young soldier troubled by the actions of the United States in Iraq and struggling with gender identity disorder. Manning's lawyers, led by civilian attorney David E. Coombs, are scheduled to present their closing argument Friday.
Manning, who lived and studied in Maryland before he joined the Army, faces charges that include violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy in the largest leak of classified materials in U.S. history. If convicted of aiding the enemy, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
The leak itself is not in dispute. Manning, 25, has acknowledged giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, war reports and gunsight video footage of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians in Baghdad.
During his eight-week court-martial at Fort Meade, both sides have focused largely on his state of mind and intent.
Manning has said he leaked the materials in 2009 and 2010 to provoke broader understanding and wider debate on U.S. foreign and military policy. His lawyers say he was well-intentioned but naive.
Fein described Manning as arrogant and disloyal.
He said the soldier researched WikiLeaks and the kinds of materials the group sought to publish, and then searched government networks for those materials. He said Manning communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about editing the video for maximum impact.
Fein cited Manning's online boast that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was "going to have a heart attack" when the diplomatic cables appeared online, and noted that he passed along battlefield reports with the message "have a good day."
He showed a photograph of Manning that he said was taken during a week in which he leaked sensitive materials. In the picture, which Fein said was taken in the Potomac home of Manning's aunt, the soldier is grinning.
"This is not a picture of a troubled person conflicted by his actions," Fein said. "This is a picture of a person who thought he was finally becoming famous."
After WikiLeaks began to publish the material, Fein said, Manning "obsessively" tracked news coverage of "his handiwork."
The court-martial has attracted worldwide attention. To his supporters, Manning is a hero who should be protected from prosecution as a whistle-blower. To his critics, he is a traitor who violated his agreements to protect classified materials and endangered American lives.
Manning has not testified during the court-martial. He already has pleaded guilty to lesser charges related to leaking the material, for which he faces up to 20 years in prison.
The Oklahoma native lived with his aunt in Potomac and studied at Montgomery College before he enlisted in the Army in 2007. He served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq from 2009 until his arrest in Baghdad in May 2010. He has been detained since the arrest.
Manning supporters kept up their vigil outside the main gate to Fort Meade on Thursday, with signs reading "Free Brad" and other messages. A white box truck emblazoned with "WikiLeaks Mobile Information Collection Unit" and "Release Bradley Manning" stood in the parking lot of the base media center.
Manning's supporters include Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed details of secret U.S. telephone and Internet surveillance programs. Snowden, a former Marylander now in Russia, has called Manning a "classic whistle-blower."
When WikiLeaks and several news organizations began publishing excerpts from the materials leaked by Manning, government officials said the candid political assessments and battlefield information they contained would compromise U.S. diplomacy and put his fellow troops at risk.
Manning's attorneys say the materials did not reveal intelligence sources. They say the battlefield reports dealt with incidents that had already happened and with which the enemy was familiar.
Fein said that commanders use the battlefield reports to plan missions and tactics. He said their release revealed U.S. tactics and procedures, and showed the enemy "what we know about them."
"This is our playbook," Fein said. He said bin Laden sought the reports, and copies were found at the al-Qaida leader's compound after he was killed.