FORT MEADE, MARYLAND – U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning betrayed his country by passing secret files to “information anarchists” at WikiLeaks and knew al-Qaida would see the documents online, a prosecutor said Thursday in closing arguments.
As Manning’s espionage court-martial entered the final stage, the prosecution asked the judge to find him guilty of “aiding the enemy,” dismissing the defense’s portrayal of the intelligence analyst, 25, as a naive but well-intentioned teller of the truth.
“He was not a troubled young soul, he was a determined soldier with the knowledge, ability and desire to harm the United States in its war effort,” lead prosecutor Major Ashden Fein told the court. “Your honor, he was not a whistle-blower — he was traitor.”
Working in military intelligence in Iraq, Manning had pledged under oath to safeguard sensitive information held by the government, but he “abused and destroyed this trust,” Fein said.
Manning has already admitted to leaking hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and battlefield intelligence reports to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. But he has denied other charges brought against him, including the most serious count: that he knowingly aided Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida.
That charge carries a possible life sentence, and civil liberties groups have warned that a guilty verdict could have a chilling effect on government whistle-blowers and journalistic inquiry.
Displaying a photo of Manning smiling and looking “gleeful” — allegedly after he began his document dump to WikiLeaks — Fein said evidence in the court-martial showed the defendant had wanted to wreak havoc.
“He wasn’t interested in oaths. He was interested in making a name for himself,” Fein said.
As an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning had been trained to know that “terrorists” use the Internet to gather information for attacks against the United States, he said.
Manning further was aware that WikiLeaks had been identified in three military intelligence reports as a possible threat to national security, as the site sought to expose classified material, according to Fein.
The prosecution depicted Manning as an agent for WikiLeaks after having corresponded with the website’s founder, Julian Assange, and others in the organization.
From November to December 2009, Manning was “searching for topics related to one mission — finding and disclosing what WikiLeaks wanted,” Fein said.
The material Manning leaked included a cockpit video of a U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 12 people, including two Reuters employees. Fein said Manning was irresponsible in releasing the video and that he did it because he thought it would be “cool” to pass the footage to a “bunch of antigovernment activists and information anarchists.”
In an online chat, Manning described the impact of his document dump as a “beautiful and horrifying thing,” the prosecutor said. “These are not the words of a humanist, but the words of an anarchist.”
The defense was due to offer its closing argument Friday. The judge, Col. Denise Lind, will deliver a verdict possibly as soon as this weekend, three years after Manning’s arrest in Iraq.
Manning has said he wanted to shed light on U.S. foreign policy abuses. Manning says he believed the reports he saw in his job “needed to be shared with the world” and that doing so “would help document the true cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
He has pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges of federal espionage, computer fraud and wrongful storage of classified information, which could carry a sentence of up to 20 years. Prosecutors are trying to prove 12 additional counts, including theft of U.S. property and the “aiding the enemy” charge.