U.S. government rests case against WikiLeaks suspect
FORT MEADE, Maryland — US Army Private Bradley Manning, accused of one of the most serious intelligence breaches in US history, came face-to-face on Tuesday with the man who turned him in to the authorities.
The dramatic encounter took place as the government wrapped up its case in a hearing to decide whether Manning, a low-ranking intelligence analyst, should face a court-martial on charges that could send him to prison for life.
Dressed in a green camouflage uniform of the 10th Mountain Division and wearing black-rimmed glasses, Manning looked on intently as army prosecutors called Adrian Lamo, a former computer hacker, to the stand.
Lamo, a figure of some renown in the computer hacker community, recounted how an individual who he said eventually turned out to be Manning reached out to him by email on May 20, 2010.
Lamo said he began holding encrypted AOL instant message chats with someone using the screen name “bradass87” and he later confirmed “bradass87” was Manning after receiving a Facebook friend request from him.
“I desired verification of the remote party and the claims that they were making,” Lamo said.
In the online conversations, which have been published by Wired.com, Manning talked about supplying classified US material to a “crazy white-haired Aussie,” an apparent reference to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Manning is accused of giving WikiLeaks a trove of US military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, classified State Department cables, Guantanamo detainee assessments and videos of US air strikes.
Army investigators told the hearing on Monday that contact information for Assange, military reports, cables and other classified material had been found on computers and storage devices used by Manning.
Asked why he contacted the US authorities after Manning got in touch with him, Lamo said: “What I saw in those chats was an admission of acts so egregious that it required that response.”
Lamo said he held the instant message chats with Manning for five days, up until his arrest at Forward Operating Base Hammer near Baghdad.
Under cross-examination from the defense, Lamo acknowledged he had suffered from drug issues in the past, been institutionalized for mental health problems and had pleaded guilty to computer fraud in 2004.
Lamo was also asked why he thought “bradass87” had contacted him in particular.
“I believe they were reaching out for approbation and for a like-minded individual,” he said. “I do not believe they were looking for guidance so much as I think they were looking to brag about what they had done.”
Earlier Tuesday, the court heard from a former supervisor of Manning, ex-army specialist Jihrleah Showman, who said she had repeatedly recommended that he not be deployed to Iraq with the rest of the unit in November 2009.
She recounted several emotional outbursts involving Manning and said she had suggested that he receive behavioral health treatment, that his access to classified information be revoked and that he not be deployed to Iraq.
“You felt he had a very elevated level of paranoia?” defense attorney David Coombs asked.
“Correct,” Showman replied.
Asked if she had any idea whether Manning’s “paranoia” was due to “gender identity disorder,” Showman said there was “no indication of that.”
The defense has suggested that Manning struggled with gender issues and emotional problems but his superiors failed to provide counseling, take disciplinary action or revoke his security clearance.
They have also indicated that Manning, who is gay, had difficulty serving in a US military that was operating under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards homosexuals which has since been repealed.
Prosecutors also asked Showman about a fight with Manning some three weeks before his arrest, an incident which led to his removal from their workspace.
“He was removed because he attacked, he punched me in the face, unprovoked, and displayed an uncontrollable behavior that was deemed untrustworthy at the time,” she said.
The defense is scheduled to call its first witnesses on Wednesday and the investigating officer may take several weeks before deciding whether or not to proceed with a court martial.