By David Dishneau
The Associated Press
FORT MEADE, Md. — Pfc. Bradley Manning’s defense rested its case Wednesday after presenting evidence from 10 witnesses, hoping to prove the loads of material the soldier gave to WikiLeaks did not threaten national security or U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Prosecutors argued the former U.S. 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. However, he testified during a pre-trial hearing in February, reading from a 35-page statement in which he said he leaked the material to expose the American military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A judge, not a jury, is hearing the case at Manning’s request. Prosecutors said they plan to call rebuttal witnesses next week. The judge will hear arguments Monday on the scope of any rebuttal case.
The defense, led by civilian attorney David Coombs, presented evidence over three days 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 used 14 days and 80 witnesses to make their case 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. The government’s evidence showed Manning had been trained not to give classified information to unauthorized people. Prosecutors also offered evidence that al-Qaida leaders reveled in WikiLeaks’ publication of classified U.S. documents, urging members to study them before devising ways to attack the United States.