News Column

WikiLeaks Testimony: Manning a 'Broken Soul'

June 4, 2013

A desperate Private First Class Bradley Manning described himself as a "broken soul" to a convicted computer hacker from whom he sought moral and emotional support, according to testimony in Manning's court martial Tuesday.

Adrian Lamo, who communicated with Manning just prior to Manning's arrest in late May 2010, told the court that Manning had poured out his soul to him.

Lamo, a reformed hacker, then alerted federal law enforcement officials that Manning was likely the source of the trove of military documents and government secrets that were leaked through the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and provoked furor in global capitals and embarrassment at home.

Manning, 25, has admitted to leaking an estimated 250,000 diplomatic cables and about 500,000 secret military documents from Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks.

But military prosecutors are pursuing tougher charges than the ones Manning has admitted to, including the most serious, aiding the enemy. They are seeking life in prison for Manning, who downloaded the documents while he was serving in Iraq from 2009 until his arrest in 2010.

Manning's actions have made him a worldwide cause celebre among freedom of information advocates, including Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers that laid bare US actions in Vietnam. His supporters are suspicious about the extraordinary secrecy that has surrounded the three yeares of trial preparations, during which Manning has been held in prison, sometimes in solitary confinement.

According to Lamo's testimony, Manning was suicidal when he sought support from Lamo, and admitted he had "made a huge mess" when he released the data to the website.

Defence lawyer David Coombs asked Lamo whether he saw Manning as "ideologically motivated" and "well-intentioned" to which Lamo answered, "subjectively, yes." Coombs also noted that Lamo himself was 22 at the time of his arrest in 2003 for breaking into several computer networks, including ones belonging to the New York Times, Yahoo and Microsoft.

"You saw a young 22-year-old much as you were," Coombs said.

"That was not lost on me, yes," Lamo replied. He said he contacted army counter-intelligence officials about Manning because the type of information he had disclosed caused him to fear for Manning's life.

Coombs also suggested that Manning chose to confide in Lamo because Lamo had been associated with a major organization advocating for homosexuals. Manning had a "gender identity issue," Coombs said, but had come to terms with it during his deployment.

According to Lamo, Manning said his experience in the army left him believing that everywhere in the world there was a US post there was a diplomatic scandal, but he also believed that if the information he stole got out, it might change things.

Major Ashden Fein, one of the prosecutors, cross-examined Lamo about his health, and Lamo said he had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and depression. He admitted that his condition made him forgetful.

Earlier Tuesday, two computer forensics specialists, David Shaver and Mark Johnson, testified about the initial investigation. They had confiscated external hard drives and discs from Manning's room and the from the computer information facility where he worked in Iraq.

Johnson said that he found a text file created in November 2009 with contact information for WikiLeaks along with a presentation and a video.

On cross examination, Johnson said he found nothing on Manning's computer related to terrorism and nothing indicating he had actually made contact with WikiLeaks. He also found nothing to show Manning had received transfers of large amounts of money.

The second day of the trial drew fewer reporters and only a handful of demonstrators outside the entrance of the Army base. They held signs supporting Manning.

In his opening statement Monday, Coombs said Manning did not intend to aid the enemy. Instead he said Manning had hoped that if the US public knew the full story of what was happening in Iraq, it could change the way people thought about the war.

Coombs also challenged the prosecution's efforts to tie Manning to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Assange is living under a grant of asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He fled there after exhausting his appeal of extradition to Sweden, where he has been charged with sexual assault.

He is worried that if he is extradited to Sweden, he could be further extradited to the US on similar charges Manning is now facing.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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