Former Bradley Manning boss to testify on his ‘erratic behavior’
Jihrleah Showman to appear as lawyers seek to contend that Manning was aware leak would compromise US national security
US government prosecutors were opening the third day of the trial of the WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning on Wednesday by calling to the witness stand the soldier’s former supervisor at the army base outside Iraq where he worked as an intelligence analyst.
Jihrleah Showman has already appeared before the court at Fort Meade, Maryland, having attended the first pre-trial hearing that was held in December 2011. On that occasion, she related how Manning had punched her during a violent outburst that led to him being demoted to the rank of private.
Showman also recounted other erratic behaviour from Manning, including an incident in which she feared that he had reached for a gun, and went as far as to say that in her opinion he should never have been allowed to deploy to Iraq because he was a “threat to himself and to others”.
Showman will be called by government lawyers as they seek to drive home their case: that Manning was fully aware that what he was doing, in carrying out the largest leak of state secrets in US history, could put the nation in harm’s way and benefit foreign adversaries.
On Tuesday, the prosecution called a number of intelligence specialists who had trained Manning in handling classified information ahead of his deployment.
The court heard that Manning had been taught to avoid disclosing information relating to national security as it could cause damage to US interests and expose him to the threat of blackmail. He had also voluntarily signed a non-disclosure agreement in front of his fellow students.
Brian Madrid testified that while he was training Manning to become a 35 Fox – an army intelligence analyst with clearance to draw data from secret military databases – he ordered the soldier to undergo “corrective training”. Manning had posted a video on YouTube for his family and friends to view in which he had used the phrase “top secret”, which was considered a security error.
The soldier was instructed to make a PowerPoint and present it to the other students on the dangers of disclosing secret information. Manning’s resulting presentation, beamed onto a screen in court, referenced the perils of intelligence leaking out through chat rooms and social media, and said that national security information should never be shared in public conversations, with journalists or on the internet.
“Use common sense, we have many enemies and have a free and open society,” the presentation said.
After the presentation, Madrid talked to Manning again to make sure he understood why he had received the “corrective training”. He replied that he did understand and the breach would not happen again. Asked whether it did happen again, Madrid replied: “I believe so. That’s why we’re here, ma’am.”
While the prosecution’s goal at this early stage in the trial is to underline Manning’s alleged awareness of his intelligence duties, the soldier’s defence continues to focus on the absence of any malice behind his actions. Defence cross-examinations have concentrated on confirming with witnesses that they did not hear Manning express any anti-American feelings, any derogatory comments about the US flag, or any communicated desire to harm the nation.
The overriding imperative for the defence is to chip away at the most serious charge: that Manning “aided the enemy” by posting sensitive secret information on the internet that could in turn by accessed by al-Qaida. The lead defence lawyer, David Coombs, has been forbidden by the judge in the case, Colonel Denise Lind, from discussing at this factual stage of the trial Manning’s motives in leaking or the lack of damage that the WikiLeaks disclosures caused to US national security.
Within those tight restrictions, the defence has limited room of manoeuvre in attempting to rebuff charges that carry a maximum sentence of at least 150 years in jail or in the case of “aiding the enemy” life in military custody with no chance of parole.