FORT MEADE, Maryland (AP) — Secret threat assessments of Guantanamo Bay detainees that Pfc. Bradley Manning gave to WikiLeaks did not harm national security, a former chief prosecutor at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba testified Tuesday.
Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis described the briefs as summaries of investigative and intelligence reports meant to be seen by senior military and executive branch officials. They included information about the detainees’ known or suspected terrorist ties but the briefs were often inaccurate, he said.
“You don’t know if what you’re looking at is right or wrong or overstated or understated,” he said.
Manning faces 21 charges, including aiding the enemy and other offenses for leaking hundreds of thousands of battlefield records, State Department diplomatic cables, other classified documents and several battlefield videos to WikiLeaks. His court-martial is being heard by a judge, not a jury, at Manning’s request.
Manning has acknowledged sending nearly 800 classified Gitmo detainee assessment briefs to the anti-secrecy group in March 2010. WikiLeaks published most of the documents on its website starting in April 2011. Five of the leaked documents are the basis of an espionage charge, and all underlie a theft charge.
Davis said four of the men named in the briefs had been released from Guantanamo at least four years before Manning leaked them. The fifth is on a list to be transferred out, Davis said.
He said the still-classified assessments contain little information that hasn’t been publicly revealed, including in the 2006 movie “The Road to Guantanamo” and the 2007 book, “The Guantanamo Files.”
And he said an enemy would learn nothing of value by reading them.
“If they’re trying to gain some kind of strategic tactical advantage, the detainee assessment brief is not the place to get it,” Davis said.
He acknowledged on cross-examination that just because a detainee has been released doesn’t mean the person is no longer considered a threat. In some cases, U.S. authorities feel they can manage or reduce the threat through law enforcement and intelligence.
A former Guantanamo commander, Navy Rear Adm. David Woods, has testified for the prosecution that the assessments revealed sources of U.S. intelligence and other types of information that could cause serious damage to U.S. national security if publicly released.
Another defense witness, Army security specialist Charles Ganiel, testified he reviewed 125 leaked State Department cables and found that “a lot of the information was already out in the public domain” before WikiLeaks published it.
But he agreed with prosecutor Capt. Angel Overgaard that military employees should always protect classified information.
Also Tuesday, the court publicly released four defense motions asking the judge to acquit Manning of seven charges, including most serious count of aiding the enemy, due to a lack of evidence. The defense said the government failed to prove Manning had the requisite “general evil intent” and knowledge that he was dealing with the enemy by giving information to WikiLeaks. Aiding the enemy carries a possible life sentence.
The defense also said Manning should be acquitted of five theft charges, partly because prosecutors had not shown the material had a value of more than $1,000, as alleged.
The defense also said prosecutors hadn’t proved Manning exceeded his authorized computer access by using an unauthorized program to download and save hundreds of thousands of State Department cables.
The prosecution has until Thursday to respond to the motions.
Manning, 25, a native of Oklahoma, has acknowledged leaking material he downloaded from a classified government computer network while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in late 2009 and early 2010.
Prosecutors produced evidence that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden obtained digital copies of some of the leaked documents published by WikiLeaks.
Manning has said he leaked the material to provoke public discussion about what he considered wrongdoing by American troops and diplomats. The material included video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. A military investigation concluded the troops reasonably mistook the photography equipment for weapons.