Prosecutors say WikiLeaks soldier was ‘seeking notoriety’

Bradley Manning accused of largest leak of classified information in US history

Private First Class Bradley Manning (L), 25, is escorted inside for closing arguments in his military trial at Fort Meade, Maryland. Photograph: James Lawler Duggan/Reuters.

Private First Class Bradley Manning (L), 25, is escorted inside for closing arguments in his military trial at Fort Meade, Maryland. Photograph: James Lawler Duggan/Reuters.

Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 20:21

Military prosecutors described the US soldier accused of the largest leak of classified information in the nation’s history of releasing documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with a hope of making a name for himself.

As the court-martial of Private First Class Bradley Manning winds down, prosecutors in closing arguments today said that the 25-year-old intelligence analyst had betrayed the trust his nation put in him.

“The only human PFC Manning ever cared about was himself,” said Major Ashden Fein, the lead prosecuting attorney.

Attorneys for Pte Manning, who faces 21 counts of leaking more than 700,000 documents through the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website, are due to make their closing remarks later in the day.

Earlier in the case they portrayed Pte Manning as well-meaning but naive, intending to provoke a broader debate on US military and diplomatic policy by releasing the documents. The most serious charge he faces, aiding the enemy, carries a life sentence.

The case has pitted civil liberties groups who seek increased transparency into the actions of the US military and security apparatus, against the government, which has argued that the low-level intelligence analyst, who was stationed in Baghdad at the time, endangered lives.

Army Colonel Denise Lind, who is presiding over the trial, early in the proceedings today denied a request by the defense to find Pte Manning not guilty of five of the counts related to stealing information from government databases.

She denied a request by the defense to declare a mistrial.

The case, which saw WikiLeaks publish classified files, combat videos and diplomatic cables, serves as a test of the limits of secrecy in the internet age.

But it has recently been overshadowed to some degree by the case of fugitive US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed to Britain’s Guardian newspaper early last month the details of alleged secret US surveillance programs tracking Americans’ telephone and internet use.

The WikiLeaks website has become controversial both for its publishing of secret data and for its founder, Julian Assange, who has been sheltering in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for more than a year to avoid extradition to Sweden for alleged sex crimes.

Pte Manning was arrested in May 2010 while serving in Iraq.

In February, he pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including misusing classified information, such as military databases in Iraq and Afghanistan and files pertaining to Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Pte Manning chose to be tried by a military judge, rather than have a panel of military jurors hear his case.

The defence attempted to portray Pte Manning as well-intentioned but young and naive, while the prosecution maintained that he was a trained intelligence analyst who knew what the fallout of such a major leak would be.

In February, Pte Manning read from a prepared 35-page statement in an attempt to explain why he released classified information to WikiLeaks.

“I believe that if the general public ... had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general,” Pte Manning said.

Maj Fein said that intercepted communications between Pte Manning and Mr Assange showed that he knew he would rile the nation’s leaders. He quoted one, referring to the secretary of state, as saying, “Hillary Clinton is going to have a heart attack.”