FORT MEADE, Maryland — A US Army officer who served in Iraq with Bradley Manning, blamed for one of the biggest intelligence breaches in US history, told a court Sunday that she had asked he be removed from duty after allegedly striking another soldier.
Captain Casey Fulton said she also instructed that Manning’s weapon be taken away following the incident, which occurred shortly before the May 2010 arrest of the US Army private.
Fulton’s testimony came on the third day of a hearing being held at this sprawling army base to decide whether Manning, who spent his 24th birthday in court on Saturday, should face a formal court-martial.
Dressed in a green camouflage uniform of the 10th Mountain Division and wearing black-rimmed glasses, Manning listened intently to the testimony and jotted down occasional notes on a legal pad.
He is potentially facing life in prison in connection with the leak of hundreds of thousands of US military field reports from Afghanistan and Iraq, classified diplomatic cables and videos of US air strikes.
Manning is suspected of siphoning off the material from secure computer networks while serving as a low-ranking intelligence analyst in Iraq and providing them to WikiLeaks.
The hearing is expected to last up to a week with over a dozen witnesses being called by prosecutors and Manning’s defense team, which is made up of a civilian attorney and two military-appointed lawyers.
During Saturday’s testimony, Manning’s attorneys said the soldier struggled with gender issues and emotional problems but his superiors repeatedly failed to take disciplinary action or to revoke his top secret security clearance.
The defense also sought to establish that security was lax at Manning’s unit in Iraq and that the material published by WikiLeaks did not do serious damage to US national security.
Captain Fulton was asked by the defense about a violent incident in May 2010 between Manning and a female soldier, Specialist Jihrleah Showman, who was “irritated” about having been woken up late at night and returned to duty.
Fulton said she was on the phone in the common work area and after hearing a disturbance she turned around to see Showman pinning Manning to the ground.
“She said that he had struck her and she had a big red welt on her face,” Fulton said.
Fulton ordered Manning to be removed from the work area, for him to undergo behavioral treatment and for his weapon to be taken away.
“I wanted him to be removed,” she said. “Anytime there’s some kind of violent outburst like that in a deployed environment and you have a functioning weapon you want to take that functioning weapon away.”
Fulton was also asked by the defense whether she thought Manning should have been reprimanded for previous behavioral incidents.
“Yes,” she replied.
Another witness called by prosecutors was Sergeant Chad Madaras, who shared Manning’s computer work station while deployed to Iraq.
Madaras also said he saw a “couple” of emotional outbursts by Manning but to his knowledge he was not counseled or disciplined until the occasion on which he struck another soldier.
Madaras also said Manning did not appear to have any friends in the unit and he agreed with a defense description that he was an “outcast.”
“He kind of separated himself from others in the unit,” Madaras said.
Two other witnesses called by prosecutors declined to testify, citing their Article 31 right against self-incrimination.
One of them was Sergeant First Class Paul Adkins, who was the senior non-commissioned officer in Manning’s unit in Iraq.
Adkins was demoted from master sergeant to sergeant first class following the Iraq deployment for reasons which have not been made public.
Manning sent emails to Adkins in April 2010 in which he included a picture of himself dressed as a woman and said his troubles were “impacting his ability to do his job.”
Anti-war activists have been staging daily vigils and rallies outside of Fort Meade in support of Manning.