Questions Of Motivation Mark WikiLeaks Soldier's Court-Martial

by
Reuters
The court-martial of U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, accused of the biggest breach of classified information in U.S. history, focused Tuesday on his motivations for giving secrets to the WikiLeaks website in 2010 and prosecutors sought to show he leaked documents and discussed it with others.

The court-martial of U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, accused of the biggest breach of classified information in U.S. history, focused Tuesday on his motivations for giving secrets to the WikiLeaks website in 2010 and prosecutors sought to show he leaked documents and discussed it with others.

Military prosecutors called to the witness stand an admitted computer hacker who befriended Manning and then turned him in to U.S. Army investigators. The man, Adrian Lamo, testified that Private First Class Manning contacted him online in May 2010 from his base in Iraq, seeking guidance in encrypted online chats.

Lamo, testifying on the second day of the court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, described himself as a computer threat analyst and "gray hat hacker" - someone who breached computer systems but not for malicious purposes. Lamo considered Manning a kindred idealist, according to his testimony.

"Based on your conversation, you saw a 22-year-old with good intentions, just like you had been?" defense attorney David Coombs asked Lamo.

"That was not lost on me," replied Lamo, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to breaking into the computer systems of the New York Times, Microsoft and Lexis Nexis.

When the trial opened on Monday, prosecutors told the judge that Manning had been driven by arrogance to leak more than 700,000 documents, combat videos and other data to the anti-secrecy website, WikiLeaks. The website began exposing the leaked U.S. government secrets in 2010, stunning diplomats and U.S. officials. Manning has been in confinement since he was arrested in May 2010.

In opening arguments, lawyers for the 25-year-old Manning described the former intelligence analyst in Iraq as naive but well intentioned in wanting to show the American public the reality of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Manning, a slight figure in a dress uniform, at times listened to testimony with his chin on his fist, occasionally speaking to his lawyers.

SEARCH OF MANNING'S LAPTOP

Earlier in the day Mark Johnson, a civilian digital forensic examiner with the U.S. Army's Computer Crimes Investigation Unit, told the court that he found three "items of interest" on Manning's laptop, including digital slides, WikiLeaks contact details and a video that he did not describe.

One of Manning's lawyers, Major Thomas Hurley, asked Johnson if he had found "anything indicating hatred of America."

"No, but we would have noted it," Johnson replied. "We didn't find it.

The case has pitted civil liberties groups that want more transparency into military and diplomatic affairs against the government, which accuses Manning of endangering lives and souring sensitive diplomacy by leaking classified information, which WikiLeaks published on the internet.

Manning could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted. He faces 21 charges, including the most serious one of aiding the enemy, and prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917.

The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said last month she would close parts of the trial to the public to protect classified material. The trial is scheduled to run through late August at the earliest.

Lamo said Manning revealed in encrypted online chats that he felt intense emotional strain from his job with access to a trove of classified material.

Manning, who is gay, also was grappling with his sexual identity and felt a kinship with Lamo, a former member of a San Francisco task force on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, Lamo said.

"At any time did he say he had no loyalty to America?" defense attorney Coombs asked.

"Not in those words, no," Lamo said.

Lamo has previously said he turned in Manning because the leaks put lives at risk and the material released was too vast to be vetted to prevent harm from taking place.

Under questioning by prosecutor Captain Joe Morrow, Lamo said he had chatted online with Manning from his home in Sacramento, California, and from Starbucks coffee shops nearby.

WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault. Assange, an Australian, denies the allegations.

Ecuadorean officials said on Monday they planned to meet their British counterparts to seek a solution to Assange's year-long standoff.

Assange and Manning are the subject of a documentary, "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks" that opened in theaters last month.