US prosecutors rested their case against Bradley Manning on Tuesday after trying to prove that the former US Army intelligence analyst let military secrets fall into the hands of al-Qaeda and its former leader Osama bin Laden.
The 25-year-old Manning is charged with 21 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence. To prove that charge, prosecutors must show Manning gave intelligence to the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, knowing it would be published online and seen by an enemy of the US.
Manning has acknowledged sending more than 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and US Department of State diplomatic cables, along with several battlefield video clips, to WikiLeaks while working in Baghdad from November 2009 through May 2010.
The defense could begin its case as early as Monday next week, when the trial will resume. Manning’s defense has said he was a young and naive, but well-intentioned soldier whose struggle to fit in as a gay man in the military made him feel he “needed to do something to make a difference in this world.”
Manning has told a military judge he leaked the war logs to document “the true costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” including the deaths of two Reuters employees killed in a US helicopter attack. Manning said the diplomatic cables revealed secret pacts and deceit he thought should be exposed.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Manning used military computers in Iraq to download reams of documents and battlefield video from a classified network, transferred some of the material to his personal computer and sent it to WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors presented evidence that al-Qaeda leaders reveled in WikiLeaks’ publication of classified US documents, urging members to study them before devising ways to attack the US.
“By the grace of God the enemy’s interests are today spread all over the place,” Adam Gadahn, an al-Qaeda spokesman, said in a 2011 propaganda video.
The video specifically referred to material available on the WikiLeaks Web site.
The government also presented evidence that Bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published.
However, prosecutors struggled to prove Manning collaborated with WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange or looked to WikiLeaks for guidance — assertions meant to show that he leaked the material with evil intent.
Manning has pleaded guilty to reduced charges on seven of eight espionage counts and two computer fraud counts. He also has pleaded guilty to violating a military regulation prohibiting wrongful storage of classified information. The offenses he has admitted carry a combined maximum prison term of 20 years.