U.S. government officially links Bradley Manning to Wikileaks documents


Bradley Manning, pictured here in 2009, is accused of being the source of the classified documents released by Wikileaks. (Photo by Daniel Joseph Barnhart Clark via Wikimedia Commons.)

Over the weekend, new details emerged on just how U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning is connected to the Wikileaks case.

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Manning is on trial in a military court and, according to Reuters, on Sunday a military computer crimes expert testified that files and file fragments found on Manning's two computer matched those downloadable from the Wikileaks website. It's the first time that the government has publicly linked Manning to Wikileaks, though it's been widely expected.

Denver Nicks, author of the forthcoming book "Private: The Bradley Manning Story" is monitoring the trial at Fort Meade in Maryland, said witnesses have testified that Manning downloaded most, if not all, of the documents that wound up on Wikileaks. Also over the weekend, the Army put in place restrictions on what witnesses Manning can call in his own defense.

"This is not a legal proceeding in a court, in that sense. It's a pre-trial investigation presided over by an investigating officer," Nicks said. "It's a pre-trial investigation to determine whether to court-martial Bradley Manning."

For that reason, Nicks said don't expect to hear from Wikileaks. At this point, all the government needs to do is convince the investigating officer that a reasonable person could believe Manning leaked the documents. At a court martial, the evidentiary standards would be higher, and more similar to what you'd find in civilian courts.

One of the restrictions put in place prohibited Manning's attorney from calling to testify, for example, the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense. Manning's attorney, David Coombs, also wanted to question soldiers who served with Manning in an effort to call into question why Manning still had access to classified documents, despite showing signs of instability.

"One of the issues Coombs has been trying to discuss is the level of classification of these documents and the actual damage done to national security by their leaking," Nick said. "Those are the issues he wanted the secretary of state and former defense secretary Gates to testify to."

Instead, the defense has had to use the witnesses that have been called to question Manning's state of mind. Nicks said they've testified about the level of stress Manning was under, as well as the gender identity crisis he was undergoing. They've also tried to establish that there was very lax information security policies at the base where Manning was stationed, which could have led him to misunderstand what he could and could not do.

Manning, who has been in custody since May 2010, faces several charges, including aiding the enemy and moving classified documents to a non-secured computer. Aiding the enemy carries a maximum penalty of death. He's been imprisoned at the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for the past few months after being moved out of Quantico Marine base, under pressure.

"Earlier this year and last last year, there were some questions about Manning being held in solitary confinement. The United Nations got involved, Welsh Parliamentarian were up in arms," Nicks said. "That's another issue his defense attorney intended to bring up at this hearing."

According to Nicks, Coombs claims this ia a violation of Manning's rights and said he's being punished for crimes he's not yet been convicted of committing.