Prosecutors call U.S. WikiLeaks soldier 'traitor' for security breach

by Reuters
Thursday, 25 July 2013 22:37 GMT

(Adds quotes from prosecution closing statements)

By Medina Roshan

FORT MEADE, Md., July 25 (Reuters) - Military prosecutorscalled the U.S. soldier accused of the largest leak ofclassified information in the nation's history a "traitor" forreleasing documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

As the court-martial of Army Private First Class BradleyManning winds down, prosecutors in closing arguments on Thursdaysaid the 25-year-old intelligence analyst had betrayed the trusthis nation put in him.

"Manning had the general evil intent ... he actedvoluntarily and deliberately with his disclosures," said MajorAshden Fein, the lead military prosecutor. "He was not awhistleblower. He was a traitor."

Closing statements for the prosecution lasted about fivehours.

Attorneys for Manning, who faces 21 counts of leaking morethan 700,000 documents through the WikiLeaks anti-secrecywebsite, are due to make their closing remarks on Friday.

Earlier in the case, they portrayed Manning as well-meaningbut naive, intending to provoke a broader debate on U.S.military and diplomatic policy by releasing the documents. Themost serious charge he faces, aiding the enemy, carries a lifesentence.

The case has pitted civil liberties groups who seekincreased transparency into the actions of the U.S. military andsecurity apparatus, against the government, which has arguedthat the low-level intelligence analyst, who was stationed inBaghdad at the time, endangered lives.

It also illustrates the perils of granting so many peopleaccess to classified information, said Joseph Wippl, a formerCIA officer who is now a professor of international relations atBoston University.

"He leaked information to which at least half a millionpeople had access. Giving access to that many is like laying atrap for lemmings," Wippl said. "It was bound to happen."

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

She also denied a request by the defense to declare amistrial.


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

But it has recently been overshadowed to some degree by thecase of fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, whorevealed to Britain's Guardian newspaper early last month thedetails of alleged secret U.S. surveillance programs trackingAmericans' telephone and Internet use.

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

Fein said a search of Manning's computers showed he had donemore than 100 searches related to WikiLeaks, which he called the"first intelligence agency of the people."

Manning was arrested in May 2010 while serving in Iraq.

He chose to be tried by a military judge, rather than have apanel of military jurors hear his case.

In February, Manning pleaded guilty to lesser charges,including misusing classified information, such as militarydatabases in Iraq and Afghanistan and files pertaining toGuantanamo Bay detainees.

At that time, he read from a prepared 35-page statement inan attempt to explain why he released classified information toWikiLeaks: "I believe that if the general public ... had accessto the information ... this could spark a domestic debate as tothe role of the military and foreign policy in general."

The prosecution maintained that Manning sought fame, notopenness.

Major Fein described a photo he said the soldier took ofhimself after sending documents to WikiLeaks: "This is a pictureof a person who thought he'd finally become famous."

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Nick Zieminski and GunnaDickson)

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