In the words of his own defense team, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is a whistleblower and not the nefarious cable-leaking traitor he’s been painted out to be. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, tried to downplay the prosecution’s arguments that Manning deliberately conducted himself in a manner consistent with an enemy of the state by countering that he was a whistleblower who was devastated by what he witnessed while in a war zone and felt the American public needed to know. He further added that Manning was prepared to pay the price for the things he had done, and felt it was necessary to inform the American public.
“He’s not seeking attention. He’s saying he’s willing to accept the price for what he has done,” Coombs said in a statement to the court this week.
At 25-years-old, manning is facing 21 charges, the most serious of which is aiding the enemy. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
During their argument, the prosecution frequently referenced online chat logs between Manning and now convicted hacker Adrian Lamo.
At one point, a line from that log was cited by the prosecution, with Manning telling Lamo, “If you had unprecedented access to classified networks, 14 hours a day, seven days a week, for eight-plus months, what would you do?”
Coombs said that such citations did not tell the whole story, demonstrating another citation from the same chat logs with Manning telling Lamo, “Hypothetical question: If you had free reign over classified networks over a long period of time, if you saw incredible things, awful things, things that belonged in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, D.C., what would you do?”
Lamo was the person who blew the whistle on Manning, informing authorities about his conduct in 2010.
The case is being held by a military judge and not a jury, something that is taking place at the specific request of Manning.
The prosecution described Manning’s actions starkly, characterizing them as that of a soldier providing elaborate classified details that could harm the United States’ interest and land in the hands of the enemy.
“WikiLeaks was merely the platform which Pfc. Manning used to ensure all the information was available for the world, including enemies of the United States,” the prosecution said.
Manning’s attorney repudiated those accusations, saying that Manning was struggling with the atrocities he saw during wartime and that he was also dealing with being gay during an era where you couldn’t be openly gay in the U.S. military.
The embattled former intelligence analyst has already admitted to providing more than 700,000 battle logs, diplomatic cables and videos to WikiLeaks. He fervently denies that the leaking of such classified information would in any way harm our troops abroad or pose a threat to national security.
“The amount of the documents in this case, actually is the best evidence that he was discreet in what he chose because if he was indiscriminate, if he was systematically harvesting, we wouldn’t be talking about a few hundred thousand documents — we’d be talking about millions of documents,” Coombs said.
Manning’s defense cited instances where the soldier was traumatized by videos he saw. One video depicted an Apache helicopter firing into a crowd of men, killing nine of them and a photojournalist and his driver.
“You have to look at that from the point of view of a guy who cared about human life,” Coombs said.