Manning's WikiLeaks Breach Put Central Command In Crisis Mode -Witness

by
Reuters
U.S. soldier Bradley Manning's release of secret files to WikiLeaks compelled military leaders to assign a crisis team to identify and warn anyone potentially put at risk by the leak, a high-ranking Navy officer testified on Friday.

File photo of U.S. Army Private First Class Manning arriving at the courthouse for a motion hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland

U.S. soldier Bradley Manning's release of secret files to WikiLeaks compelled military leaders to assign a crisis team to identify and warn anyone potentially put at risk by the leak, a high-ranking Navy officer testified on Friday.

The testimony by Rear Admiral Kevin Donegan, operations director of the U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2012, came as the prosecution wraps up its case in the sentencing phase of Manning's court-martial.

Manning, 25, faces up to 90 years in prison after being convicted last week of releasing more than 700,000 secret files to WikiLeaks, a pro-transparency website, in the biggest breach of classified information in U.S. history.

After WikiLeaks published the documents, including battle videos and diplomatic cables in 2010, the Central Command, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan, set up a task force to assess the risk and damage for U.S. military forces and their allies, Donegan testified.

"This was not a small operation," he said.

The U.S. military then tried to warn anyone who could be identified by enemy forces through WikiLeaks that "they were potentially in jeopardy," Donegan said.

WikiLeaks also endangered Afghan villages that might be perceived as friendly toward U.S. or coalition forces, Donegan said.

He added that "there was absolutely an impact" on the U.S. government from the released diplomatic cables.

Under questioning from defense attorney Major Thomas Hurley, Donegan said he was unable to name anyone who became a casualty of reprisal because of the WikiLeaks publications.

The court then went into a closed session to hear classified information from Donegan.

Manning, of Crescent, Oklahoma, was convicted on charges that included theft and espionage for releasing the files while working as a low-level intelligence analyst in Iraq. He was found not guilty of the most serious count of aiding the enemy, which carried a sentence of life without parole.

In setting Manning's sentence, Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge who convicted him, is determining how much damage he did. The prosecution is expected to conclude its case on Friday, with the defense presenting its side starting next week.

Manning's lawyers have portrayed him as naive but well-intentioned. They argue the soldier's aim was to provoke a broader debate on U.S. military policy, not to harm anyone.