FORT MEADE, Maryland — US military lawyers said Wednesday that Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of passing a trove of secret documents to WikiLeaks, had breached security before and knew he was breaking the law.
A pre-trial hearing for Manning, 24, who could be jailed for life if he is convicted of committing the biggest intelligence breach in American history, heard that he made an unauthorized YouTube video for his family in 2008.
He used the terms “classified” and “top secret” in that video but he was caught and received corrective training for breaking military rules, said prosecutors, who want to put the video before jurors at Manning’s trial.
Manning’s punishment for the YouTube video included having to present a power point presentation in which he explained what amounted to classified information and what would constitute a security breach.
The military says the information proves that Manning was fully aware of the consequences when he released a huge cache of diplomatic cables and military logs to WikiLeaks. His defense has denied the soldier knowingly aided the enemy.
Manning is alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with the haul of documents several months before he was eventually tracked down and arrested in 2010 while serving in Iraq.
“The intent behind the two acts is sufficiently similar — wilful and was damaging to the interests of the United States,” said Captain Angel Overgaard at the pre-trial hearing taking place at a military base in Maryland.
The publishing by WikiLeaks of the official documents triggered a diplomatic firestorm that hugely embarrassed American officials who were left to deal with the fallout and the disclosures also rankled key US allies.
Manning’s defense argued at the hearing that making the YouTube video and the power point slides available to the jury would prejudice the former intelligence analyst’s right to a fair trial.
But the military says the specific punishment Manning received shows that he could have been “aiding the enemy” and gives an insight into his character before the subsequent leak of classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Manning, who is attending this week’s hearing, has not yet entered a plea in the case and his trial is penciled in to start in February — five months later than originally planned.