US soldier’s defense team rests in WikiLeaks trial

FORT MEADE, Maryland (AP) — Bradley Manning’s defense rested its case Wednesday after trying to prove the thousands of classified documents the U.S. soldier gave to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks did not threaten national security or troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prosecutors argued the former Army intelligence analyst let military secrets fall into the hands of al-Qaida and its former leader Osama bin Laden. Manning faces 21 charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence.

Manning did not take the stand during the trial, but he testified during a pre-trial hearing in February, reading from a statement in which he said he leaked the material to expose the military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prosecutors said they plan to call rebuttal witnesses next week. They have argued 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 also offered evidence that al-Qaida leaders reveled in WikiLeaks’ publication of the classified documents, urging members to study them before devising ways to attack the United States.

The defense presented evidence that Manning was authorized, even encouraged, to look at a wide range of classified information as part of his job, rebutting charges he exceeded his authorized computer access. The defense also produced evidence that some of the information Manning leaked was already publicly known before WikiLeaks published it.

Prosecutors must prove that Manning knew the material he sent to WikiLeaks would be seen by al-Qaida members.

Manning’s defense team has asked the judge to throw out the aiding the enemy count, along with six other charges.

Manning has said he leaked the material to provoke public discussion about what he considered wrongdoing by U.S. 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.

Manning pleaded guilty earlier this year to reduced versions of some charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison for those offenses, but prosecutors pressed ahead with the original charges.

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