FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) – Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial on leaking classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks entered the defense phase Monday. As outlined at the start of the trial, his courtroom defense has three major points:
_ He was a young, naive soldier who wanted to expose wrongdoing.
_ His gender-identity struggles in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era made him want to make a difference in the world.
_ The leaks did little or no harm to national security.
In his own words, here is what Manning has said on the leaked materials and his case _ in a February courtroom statement and his 2010 internet chats with confidant-turned-government-informant Adrian Lamo.
Manning told the court he was troubled that the military wouldn’t release helicopter cockpit video of a 2007 attack in Baghdad that killed 11 men, including a Reuters photographer, his driver and people who tried to help the wounded.
He said joking heard on the video showed “delightful bloodlust” by troops acting like “a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.”
“I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the `pressure-cooker’ environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”
Manning told the court that day-to-day battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, 2004-09, showed the true nature of the U.S. campaigns there.
“I felt we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides,” he said.
Manning said that if the American public could read the reports, “this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.”
In March 2010, Manning sent WikiLeaks a set of threat assessments on Guantanamo Bay detainees.
In early 2009, President Barack Obama “stated he would close (the prison) and that the facility compromised our standing in the world and diminished our `moral authority,'” Manning told the court. “After familiarizing myself with the (detainee assessments), I agreed.”
Manning said the assessments didn’t contain names of sources or quotes from interrogation reports and that he determined they “were not very important from either an intelligence or national security standpoint.”
Manning said that as an intelligence analyst, he read diplomatic cables, and in April 2010 he sent them to WikiLeaks.
“The more I read, the more I was fascinated by the way we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think that they documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity …
“I thought these cables were a prime example of the need for a more open diplomacy….
“I believed that the public release of these cables would not damage the U.S. However, I did believe the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations … a catalog of cliques and gossip.”
LIFE AND GENDER ISSUES
“I’m an army intelligence analyst, deployed to eastern Baghdad, pending discharge for `adjustment disorder’ in lieu of `gender identity disorder,’ Manning wrote to Lamu a well-known, openly bisexual former hacker.
He told Lamo about his childhood in Oklahoma, calling himself short, intelligent, effeminate _ “an easy target by kindergarten.”
“Home was the same, alcoholic father and mother, father was very wealthy, but abusive.”
Manning told the court that the anonymity of those online chats and of WikiLeaks’ policies “allowed me to feel I could just be myself, free of the concerns of social labeling and perceptions that are often placed upon me in real life. In real life I lacked close friendship.”
Manning apparently believed Lamo would sympathize with his situation. Lamo promised confidentiality but quickly contacted authorities.
Manning told Lamo that the computer system he worked on in Iraq had “weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis … a perfect storm.”
“It SHOULD be better. It’s sad. I mean what if I were someone more malicious? I could’ve sold to Russia or China, and made bank?” Manning says.
Lamo asked why he didn’t sell it.
“Because it’s public data,” Manning says.
“It belongs in the public domain. Information should be free.”
Manning wrote to Lamo in May 2010 that he had leaked information. “I’ve made a huge mess. … It’s important that it gets out, I feel, for some bizarre reason it might actually change something.
“I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me plastered all over the world press as a boy,” he says, referring to his gender-identity struggles.
“I can’t believe what I’m confessing to you. I’ve been so isolated so long.”