Closing argument given in Manning, WikiLeaks trial

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — The court-martial of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning for leaking a trove of classified information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks is winding down, with prosecutors giving their closing argument on Thursday.

Here’s a look at the key elements of the case:

WHAT DID MANNING DO?

The 25-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., admittedly leaked hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and diplomatic cables in 2009 and 2010 while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad. Manning also has acknowledged leaking a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew killing 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.

HOW IS HE BEING PROSECUTED?

Manning chose to be tried by a military judge, not a jury. The trial began June 3, with Army Col. Denise Lind presiding. She will deliver the verdict and recommend a sentence. The Military District of Washington commander has the option of reducing the sentence.

The trial is at Fort Meade, an Army post south of Baltimore.

Five Army lawyers are prosecuting the case, headed by Maj. Ashden Fein. Manning’s defense team is headed by an Army reserve officer in private practice, David Coombs, and includes two active-duty Army lawyers.

WHAT DID THE PROSECUTORS’ EVIDENCE SHOW?

Prosecutors presented testimony from 80 witnesses over five weeks. The government’s evidence showed Manning had been warned about the dangers of disclosing classified information, including posting it online.

There was testimony the leaked material revealed military tactics and other information an enemy could exploit. The government also presented evidence that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden requested and received from an associate some of the documents Manning leaked after they were published on WikiLeaks.

In a more than four-hour closing argument, Fein said Manning betrayed his country’s trust and spilled government secrets to make a name for himself, knowing the material would be seen by al-Qaida.

Fein said Manning relied on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for guidance on what to leak.

“What is obvious is that Pfc. Manning pulled as much information as possible to please Julian Assange in order to get that information released,” Fein said. He later described the group as “a bunch of anti-government activists and anarchists.”

WHAT WERE THE DEFENSE’S PRINCIPAL ARGUMENTS?

The defense presented testimony from 10 witnesses in three days, plus one rebuttal witness after resting. Manning did not testify. The defense evidence showed Manning was authorized, even encouraged, to view a wide range of classified information as part of his job. The evidence was meant to counter charges that Manning exceeded his authorized computer access.

The defense also produced evidence some of the information Manning leaked was already publicly known before WikiLeaks published it. A defense expert witness, Harvard communications law professor Yochai Benkler, testified that WikiLeaks served a legitimate journalistic function in publishing leaked material.

WHAT KIND OF PUNISHMENT WOULD MANNING FACE IF CONVICTED?

Army lawyers initially brought 22 charges against Manning, including the most serious, aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence. To prove that charge, prosecutors must show Manning knew the material would be seen by al-Qaida members.

Manning pleaded guilty in February to lesser versions of nine offenses alleging violations of federal espionage and computer fraud laws, and to one count alleging violation of a military regulation prohibiting wrongful storage of classified information. The combined maximum prison term for those offenses is 20 years.

The judge accepted his guilty pleas, but prosecutors initially did not. Prosecutors later accepted Manning’s guilty plea for a lesser version of one count, involving a single diplomatic cable summarizing U.S. Embassy discussions with Icelandic officials about the country’s financial troubles.

WHY DID HE DO IT?

Manning said in February he leaked the material to expose the U.S military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for human life, and what he considered American diplomatic duplicity. He said he chose information he believed would not the harm the United States and he wanted to start a debate on military and foreign policy.

Coombs has portrayed Manning as a “young, naive but good-intentioned” soldier who was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay service member at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. military.

WHAT HAPPENED AS A RESULT OF THE LEAK?

The release of the cables and video embarrassed the U.S. and its allies. The Obama administration has said it threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America’s relations with other governments.

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