FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) – Computer forensic experts testified on Monday that they traced a break-in to a secret U.S. government website to Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier charged with the biggest leak of classified files in the nation’s history.
The testimony came as the court-martial of the private first class entered its second week. Manning is accused of providing more than 700,000 secret files to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while serving in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
He faces 21 charges, including aiding the enemy, and could face life in prison without parole if convicted in the case, which has raised questions about the limits of openness and secrecy in the digital age.
Government witnesses told the court-martial that they had traced breaches of the U.S. government’s secret Intelink intelligence database to Manning’s user name and Internet Protocol address, a major step in proving that Manning orchestrated the release of documents including secret diplomatic cables.
Manning, now 25, was a low-level intelligence analyst when he released the documents to WikiLeaks, a move he said was intended to provoke a more robust debate in the United States on the military and foreign policy. U.S. officials said the breach put lives at risk.
In written testimony, National Security Agency contractor Steven Buchanan said that computer “audit logs” showed secret Intelink information “was successfully accessed” by Manning in 2009 and 2010.
David Shaver, another computer expert who worked as a government contractor, also testified that large amounts of classified information were downloaded from Intelink and traced to Manning’s computer.
Defense attorney David Coombs tried to cast doubt on whether all of the unauthorized computer use attributed to Manning could have been done by him.
Some of the more than 800 Internet searches from Manning’s computer could have resulted from malfunctioning equipment and activity by other persons, Coombs said.
“You don’t know who did those searches,” Coombs said while questioning Shaver.
“Correct,” he answered
Manning was arrested in May 2010. He was charged with downloading intelligence documents, diplomatic cables and combat videos and forwarding them to WikiLeaks.
His trial is ramping up as officials are searching for more details about an ex-CIA employee who leaked details of a top secret U.S. surveillance program in which security services monitored data about Americans’ phone calls and internet usage.
(Reporting by Tom Ramstack; Editing by Scott Malone)
[U.S. Army Private First Class Manning enters the courtroom for day four of his court martial at Fort Meade]