by Staff Writers
Fort Meade (AFP) Maryland (AFP) Dec 21, 2011
Attorneys for Bradley Manning, accused of spilling secrets to WikiLeaks, rested their defense Wednesday at a hearing to determine if the US soldier should face a court-martial.
Closing arguments were scheduled for Thursday at 9:00 am (1400 GMT) in the case involving one of the most serious intelligence breaches in US history.
The defense team said after calling two witnesses that it was ready to proceed immediately to final arguments, but US Army prosecutors requested more time to prepare.
The presiding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, called for the hearing, which began last Friday, to resume at 9:00 am (1400 GMT) on Thursday.
Almanza reminded Manning, sitting at the defense table in a green camouflage uniform of the 10th Mountain Division with an American flag patch on the sleeve, of his rights and asked him if he wanted to make a statement.
"No sir, I'm good," Manning replied.
Following closing arguments, Almanza is expected to take several weeks before recommending whether Manning should face a court-martial on charges that could send him to prison for life.
The government wrapped up its case Tuesday after calling 20 witnesses including soldiers who served alongside Manning, digital forensics experts who examined his computers and the man who reported him to the US authorities.
Manning, 24, is accused of giving WikiLeaks a trove of US military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, classified State Department cables, Guantanamo detainee assessments and videos of US air strikes. He was arrested in May of last year.
US Army investigators have testified that contact information for Julian Assange, online chats with the WikiLeaks founder, and a trail of incriminating digital footprints was found on Manning's computers and other devices.
Defense attorneys called a sergeant and a captain who served with Manning in Iraq to the witness stand on Wednesday.
Sergeant Daniel Padgett recounted a counseling session with Manning while the unit was in Iraq during which he said Manning had become "irate," turning over a table and having to be restrained.
Another witness to the incident testified that Manning had to be restrained after going for an M4 carbine in the room but Padgett said, "I didn't see him go towards the weapons rack."
Defense attorney David Coombs asked whether any official disciplinary action was taken against Manning or if the incident was reported to his superiors.
"I talked to a few people in the brigade about what had happened," Padgett said, although he was unable to recall specific names or if any action was taken.
The defense has suggested Manning struggled with gender identity issues and emotional problems but his superiors repeatedly failed to provide counseling, take disciplinary action or revoke his security clearance.
They have also indicated that Manning, who is gay, had difficulty serving in a military that was operating under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy under which homosexuals could not serve openly, a policy which since has been repealed.
The other defense witness, Captain Barclay Keay, was asked by the defense about Manning's abilities as a soldier.
"I do feel like he wanted to be a good soldier," Keay said.
Some of the most dramatic testimony of the hearing came from Adrian Lamo, the former computer hacker who reported Manning over to the US authorities.
Lamo said he began holding encrypted AOL instant message chats on May 20, 2010 with someone using the screen name "bradass87" and he later confirmed it was Manning after receiving a Facebook friend request from him.
In the online conversations, Manning talked about supplying classified US material to a "crazy white-haired Aussie," an apparent reference to Assange.
"I want people to see the truth, regardless of who they are, because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public," Manning said in the chat logs published by Wired.com.
Such statements have made Manning a hero to anti-war activists and Pentagon Papers whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg is among the supporters who have attended the hearing on the sprawling army base at Fort Meade, Maryland.
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