Final Arguments in Manning Hearing

Bradley Manning, left, steps out of a security vehicle outside a courthouse in Fort Meade, Maryland on Wednesday 21 December. (Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP)

Final Arguments in Manning Hearing

The following are chronological updates from the Bradley Manning pre-trial hearing with Guardian correspondents Matt Williams in Fort Meade, Maryland and Adam Gabbatt in New York.

FORT MEADE, MD - The press have been escorted off Fort Meade for the last time.

But we managed to catch up with Daniel Ellsberg, the man behind the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, before heading off.

He told us: "This process should not have had to take place. And the proceedings in this case should be ended in the same way that my trial was ended nearly 40 years ago."

In 1973, Ellsberg saw espionage charges against him dismissed, with Judge William Byrne concluding that government misconduct in the case went so far as to "offend a sense of justice".

Speaking today, Ellsberg said the same was true for Manning.

He said holding the young soldier in isolation for months on end amounted to torture. In addition, President Barack Obama had exerted "improper command influence" for stating in an interview that Manning "broke the law".

But moreover, the Wikileaks source was "doing his duty" as an American citizen in bringing to public light incidents such as the Apache helicopter crew killing of civilians in Iraq.

"The real question is why did the others who saw that video in his own unit not put it out or do something about it," Ellsberg said.

He added: "Bradley Manning no more deserves to face charges of treason than I did. He no more deserves to be called a traitor than I do, because I am not."

11.47am:MW: The hearing was concluded by Investigating officer Lt Col Paul Almanza who told Manning that his recommendation to the convening authority - which will ultimately rule if the soldier is to face a court martial - is not binding.

Almanza now has until 16 January to inform that body of his opinion.
Given the sheer bulk of evidence he has to wade through, it will mean that much of his Christmas break will be spent at his desk.

Meanwhile, Manning himself will spend the holiday season behind bars, waiting to find out if he is to be prosecuted as the suspect behind the largest leaking of classified US documents in history.

11.36am:MW: In contrast to the defence's closing remarks - which were short and provided ample opportunity for quoting - the government's tactic was to set out at length the forensic evidence in their favour.

Step-by-step, army prosecutor Ashden Fein took the investigating officer through testimony presented to the court throughout the last six days.

He repeatedly drew attention to classified documents found on a memory stick at Manning's aunt's home in Maryland, on his personal laptop, work stations and a colleague's computer he had used.

On one terminal, Manning searched the internet for "Wikileaks" 119 times and "Julian Assange" four times.

He then used a "most wanted list" provided by the whistle-blowing website to guide him in his quest to find classified document to leak, the prosecution said.

Fein said that at points during a six month campaign to leak a trove of confidential Department of State and US Army reports, Manning would spend "all his working hours" looking for confidential information.

The prosecution also claimed there was evidence that Manning had direct contact with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

In a memo to the whistle-blowing website, the young soldier suggested that they "Sit on this information for 90 to 180 days to figure out how best to release such a large amount of data and to protect the source."

Manning signed off: "Have a nice day".

In the file containing the message and leaked documents was a picture of Manning, smiling into the camera.

Having told the court of the forensic evidence establishing Manning as the Wikileaks source, the government went on to outline the damage caused.

Countering the defence's argument that the leak resulted in no harm, the prosecution said releasing a global address list threatened the lives of service personnel.

He said: "Manning was a trained analyst. He knew al-Qaeda was an enemy of the United States. He knew they collected information from the internet. He knowingly gave information through Wikileaks to them."

An al-Qaeda training video from the terrorist group was them shown to the court in which the narrator said in Arabic: "The solution for Jihadis is to head to the free internet".

The prosecution said the three charge indictment, which carries 22 specifications, was appropriate.

Fein note that the US army had trained and trusted Manning.

"He used that training to defy our trust and indiscriminately and systematically harvest over 700 thousand documents from SIPRnet (The US Army's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network)."

"Manning gave the enemy of the United States unfettered access to classified documents," Fein added.

11am:MW: Private Manning's defence challenged the investigating officer to deliver a "reality check" to the US army and government.

In a 20 minute closing argument, civilian lawyer David Coombs lambasted the prosecution for trying to "strong-arm" a guilty plea from the suspected Wikileaks source by over charging him.

"You are in a unique position to provide the US army with something it needs, a reality check," he opened his remarks with.

He continued: "The government has overcharged in this case on order to strong-arm a plea from my client."

He noted that the 22 counts against Manning would result in a sentence of150 years in total.

"But the government was not satisfied. They also charged him with aiding the enemy. And even though in a benevolent gesture, apparently, they said they would not be seeking the death penalty, the death penalty is what that carries. And if not death penalty then life without parole."

The defence also pointed towards failings in the change of command and lax controls in the intelligence unit he served.

"It was a lawless unit when it came to information assurance. They did not follow rules, they did not follow standards," Coombs said

This, the lawyer added, "smacks in the face of justice"

He used the same phrase to describe the lack of care his client received in the US Army, despite showing clear signs of psychological frailties, notably in regards to suffering from gender identity disorder.

In a letter to his superior, Master Sergeant Paul Adkins, the young soldier described the effect that this had on him, ending the note with:"It makes my entire life feel like a bad dream that will not end."

But the master sargeant did nothing, despite noting in a memorandum that he believe Manning needed "extensive psychological treatment at least once or twice a week on an indefinite basis".

Coombs said "Manning struggled in isolation, but he did not struggle in silence." He noted "multiple instances" where struggle with identity, led to outburst or peculiar behaviour by Manning.

On one occasion Adkins found Manning curled in a ball next to a chair in which he had scrawled into the words: "I want".

Coombs also called into question whether any damage had actually been done by the leaking of classified information.

"Everybody looking at the information knows the simple fact that it hasn't caused harm, if anything it has helped."

He drew an analogy between the government's response and that of Chicken Little, the children's book character who warns the world the sky is falling.

"The sky has not fallen, the sky is not falling and the sky will not fall," Coombs said.

Manning's defence lawyer then quoted former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, stating that: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

At no point did Coombs attempt to counter claims that his client had leaked information. Instead he seemed to be calling for a reduced sentence of 30 years.

He noted that three decades ago, the US was busy aiding Saddam Hussein against Iran and that the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan.

"Thirty years ago, my client was not even born".

10.09am: Troops' emails will be under surveillance as part of a Defense Department bid to prevent another WikiLeaks style disclosure, according to Army Times.

A new project backed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency aims to create "a suite of algorithms that can detect multiple types of insider threats by analyzing massive amounts of data -- including email, text messages and file transfers -- for unusual activity," according to a statement from the Georgia Institute of Technology, which is helping develop the system.

The aim is to identify threats similar to that posed by Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence specialist who allegedly leaked thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, or Nidal Hasan, the Army major accused of killing 13 people in a shooting spree at Fort Hood in November 2009. Authorities say Hasan had contacts with Islamic extremists overseas before the shooting.

DARPA describes the project, officially known as the Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales program, as "insider threat detection in which malevolent (or possibly inadvertent) actions by a trusted individual are detected against a background of everyday network activity," according to the agency's website.

9.15am:MW: I've just been told by the ever-present military lawyer - who has made the life of a lowly reporter wading through military jargon and legalese a lot easier over the last few days - that aside from the six days of testimony, the investigating officer has an additional 300,000 pages of evidence to wade through.

Lt Col Paul Almanza is due to make his recommendation to the convening authority by 16 January, although he can push this date back if he is struggling.

It would have to be a quiet Christmas over at the Almanza household for him to hit the deadline otherwise.

9am: It's day seven in the Bradley Manning hearing, and it should be the last, writes Matt Williams.

In a move that was greeted with groans by those hoping for an early exit home before Christmas, the investigating officer adjourned yesterday at 9.40am after the defence wrapped questioning their two witnesses in just 35 minutes

Still, it should have given both them and the prosecution plenty of time to hone their closing arguments for today.

And they both have a fair bit of evidence to play with. In six days of testimony - the opening session was lost to legal arguments - we have learnt a lot about the strength of the case against the alleged Wikileaks source.

The government focused at length on the results of forensic examinations on the defendant's computers after his arrest in May 2010.

A succession of special agents trained in unlocking the secrets held by laptops and work terminals gave evidence to the court.

They told the investigation that classified data was found on a memory card at Manning's aunt house in Maryland as well as on computers used by the soldier while based at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Baghdad.

Some of these documents matched those released by Wikileaks, the court heard.

Internet searches for the whistle-blowing website, its founder Julian Assange and a US government global address list were conducted on a laptop within minutes of Manning logging onto his gmail and Amazon accounts on the same terminal, the court was told.

But we also heard evidence of failings in Manning's chain of command and lax controls at the intelligence unit in which he served.

Passwords for secure army computers were left on post-it notes on terminals and soldiers were allowed to listen to music, play games and even watch pirated movies brought from Iraqi nationals on computers.

Moreover, superiors seemingly ignored evidence of Manning's psychological flaws, even before he was deployed.

The young soldier was prone to violent outbursts, paranoia and was seemingly suffering from gender identity disorder, the court has heard.

One colleague warned the unit's master sergeant during training in the US that Manning should not be sent to Iraq, fearing that he suffered from "psychotic issues". But no-one took any notice of her concerns, the hearing was told.

The defence were barred from calling psychologists and psychiatrists to give testimony, after the investigating officer ruled that it was not "relevant".

At times it has been a testy affair, with Manning's civilian lawyer David Coombs displaying annoyance over certain rulings by the investigating officer.

He was also engaged in a series of odd exchanges with Adrian Lamo, Manning's former confidant, who was called to give evidence by the prosecution.

The convicted hacker explained why he turned Manning in to the authorities following a series of web chats with a man assumed to be the soldier.

He told the hearing that he believed the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified US document to be "so egregious" that he could not sit by and do nothing.

Well, that's a summary of the main points to have come out so far.

It is now up to Mr Coombs and his adversary at the hearing Captain Ashden Fein to boil down what they have heard over the last few days into a coherent argument as to why the defendant should - or should not - face a full court martial.

Watch this space.

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