Gender identity, Assange and the case against Bradley Manning
December 23rd, 2011
10:14 AM ET

Gender identity, Assange and the case against Bradley Manning

By Larry Shaughnessy

Pfc. Bradley Manning won't know for weeks if he will face a court martial for his alleged role in the largest intelligence leak in American history.  If he does go to trial, and experts think it's likely he will, his just-completed Article 32 hearing provides a lot of clues about what to expect.

An Article 32 is the military justice system's rough equivalent of a grand jury hearing, only it's conducted in the open and the defense is allowed to cross-examine witnesses and even present their own witnesses and evidence.

Manning, who served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, faces 22 charges in connection to the leak of nearly 750,000 U.S. military and State Department documents. Most of them ended up on the WikiLeaks website and much of the week-long hearing focused on those documents and Manning's connection to WikiLeaks. (Read also: Bradley Manning and the need to share)

"This appears to have been the first time any evidence has been publicly presented that directly links Pfc. Manning to Wikileak's founder Julian Assange," said Mark Zaid, an attorney who specializes in national security matters. "Is this proceeding a prelude to a future prosecution of Mr. Assange?" (Read also: Did WikiLeaks pay for the documents?)

Perhaps the most revealing evidence presented by the government is a series of internet chats that the prosecution said were between Manning and Assange. (Read also: WikiLeaks founder keeps tabs on hearing)

For example Thursday, Capt. Ashden Fein, the lead prosecutor cited chat logs of an alleged online discussion between Manning and Assange regarding the upload 700 Guantanamo Bay detainee interrogation reports.

Manning, Fein said, wrote that the upload had been going for about six hours and was about 36% complete. Assange asked how long until the upload would be complete; Manning estimated about 11-12 more hours.

Assange later confirmed the upload was complete.

WikiLeaks published 700 Guantanamo reports earlier this year.

Manning's attorneys did not present much evidence to suggest that Manning had not leaked the documents. But legal observers said they didn't have to; in fact it may have been to their advantage not to.

According to a Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School, in an Article 32 hearing, all of the burden of proof rests on the prosecution.

Fidell said the defense can simply use the hearing to gather information that might help the accused during a court martial.

David Coombs, Manning's lead defense counsel, seemed for focus on two major issues - the Army's lack of response to Manning's emotional and behavior problems as well lack of security in the SCIF where Manning worked in Iraq.

SCIF, pronounced skiff, stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It is an office where people with security clearance, can access secure military computers. As an intelligence analyst with a Top Secret clearance, Manning's job was to use the SCIF to gather information about the threat from Shia militias in Iraq for commanders in the field.

Among the charges Manning faces include putting software on the secure computers that would allow him to download classified information and burn it to a compact disk.

Manning allegedly pretended to listen to music by Lady Gaga while burning the CD.

During testimony, witnesses told defense attorneys that listening to music in that SCIF was common among all the soldiers who worked there.

Capt. Barclay Keay, one of only two defense witnesses called by Coombs testified by phone about his time with Manning's unit.

Keay said he often saw soldiers listening to music in the SCIF. At first he thought it was not proper, but he was told it was "an accepted practice" that was "tolerated because it helped soldiers be more productive."

Another witness said rewritable CDs were lying all around the SCIF.

Because of that, Coombs argued that the charges related to Manning violating computer security policies for the SCIF should be dropped. Coombs said "it was a lawless unit" when it came to computer security.

Long before Manning's hearing, there were numerous media reports that he was gay and was estranged from his father.

But during the hearing it was revealed that Manning believed he was suffered from Gender Identity Disorder. Witnesses testified that he had created an alter ego online named Breanna Manning. In closing arguments, Coombs read a letter Manning wrote to one of his supervisors,

Master Sgt. Paul Adkins, prior to his arrest where he talked about "my problem."

"Everyone is concerned about me," Manning wrote. "Everyone is afraid of me and I'm sorry."

"I joined the military hoping the problem would go away and it did for awhile."

Eventually, Coombs alleged, the gender identity problem lead to violent outbursts.

But in spite of the outbursts, Adkins and others in Manning's unit didn't remove him from duty in the SCIF or cut off his access to classified materials.

That didn't happen until he punched a fellow soldier in the face. Jihrleah Showman, a former Army specialist and at one point Manning's team leader, testified that after he hit her, she pinned him to the floor as Manning said "I'm tired of this, I'm tired of this."

Showman was one of the few in the Army who thought Manning shouldn't have security clearance and shouldn't be deployed to Iraq.  But Showman didn't have the authority to do anything other than warn her supervisors, who did not follow her recommendations.

Manning's attorney maintains that is one reason why the Army holds much of the responsibility for the leaks.

But Zaid has doubts about that legal tactic. Zaid told CNN via an email that "much irrelevant, peripheral information was publicly pandered, particularly by Pfc. Manning's defense team, to paint a portrait of Pfc. Manning that has little to nothing to do with any potential criminal liability he might face."

Whether Manning's legal team continues to follow this defense track or present a different defense won't be known until a court martial trial, if there is one.

The first hint we might get about that should come on January 16, when the Investigating Officer in the case is due to submit his recommendation to the Special Court Martial Convening Authority.

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Filed under: Bradley Manning • WikiLeaks
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Gary Lord

    It is wrong to write – as you do – that Manning was chatting with Assange when loading files. Manning was chatting with someone using an anonymous handle. Manning may have assume he was talking to Assange but this has not been proven. CNN reporters should not need to be reminded of such basic journalistic ethics when reporting legal issues.

    January 18, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  2. Pamela

    He should be punished to the full extent of the law. He broke his oath. He put lives in danger and he is NO hero. Get a grip people.

    December 26, 2011 at 12:16 am | Reply
  3. Veteran

    First off, CNN you need to spell check and grammar check these articles. This one reads like it was written by a third grader. Second, Bradley Manning is obviously a sick individual, but he is still a criminal. I agree that the pilot in the leaked video is a war criminal. This is not because he shot the reporter surrounded by armed men, but he shot up the van while they were attempting to load casualties, shooting people in retreat who are already mortally wounded is not supposed to happen. Just because this guy had Press written on his jacket doesn't make him safe, and the Army had no idea who he was. He was in a hostile area surrounded by gunmen. Although they were not engaging the helicopter they should have known better and were killed by their own stupidity. Manning needs to be executed because he betrayed his country, and innocent people have likely died because of it. He is a single soldier who has put as many lives at risk as any terrorist by putting these documents online. There needs to be a strong response from the Army.

    December 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Reply
  4. rajeev

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMLFt_m4sjE&w=640&h=390]

    December 25, 2011 at 11:47 am | Reply
  5. MKULTRA CHIPMAN

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    WHY TO ACCEPT LIABILITIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED WHEN WE CAN SIMPLY ASSASSINATE OUR VICTIMS(YOU) THANKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREE PRESS/MEDIA(most severe censorship ever !!!) !!

    This news is related to WHITES AREN’T WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER !!! OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES NOW !!!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xGfYOAydjw&w=640&h=390]

    December 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Reply
  6. wharf0rat

    Bradley Manning is a real hero. Not one of those so-called "heroes" who blindly follows the orders of war criminals. We should have a parade for Manning for shedding light on the truth. Bush, Cheney & Rumsfeld should be in prison awaiting trial for war crimes.

    December 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Reply
    • Cindi

      I hope that you enjoyed your sleep last night. It was provided for you by the United States Military.

      December 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • Francis Balliardo

      Yeah, because iraq and afghanistan were about to invade.

      December 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Reply
    • Kerry

      Bradley is lucky they don't execute him. There are families in Afghanistan who lost loved one because of his and Assange's actions. They all have blood on their hands.

      December 25, 2011 at 11:12 am | Reply
    • Jo

      Let me guess wharfat. Your Muslim. Let me venture another guess. Your a Muslim extremist. Listen Habib, In my days in the Military (Special Forces Green Beret) You would be shot on site for a crime such as this. Now they will just slap his hand and give him a couple of months in Leavenworth. Be carefull Wharf-fat We kill Muslim extemists. We hunt them down and kill them. Look at your dad Osama Bin Hidin.

      December 28, 2011 at 9:56 am | Reply
  7. Dana

    Absolutely execute Bradley and pay for Breanna. All problems solved, seriously lets do that, drop charges and pay for his / hers sex change operation and turn the freak loose.

    December 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  8. Clinton

    Execute this traitor, he deserves to be executed by firing squad for leaking classified information to our enemies, this person chose his path, it was to stand with our enemies, he is a traitor to the US it's Government and it's people, i don't care what your ideologies are about the US government, this guy does not have the right to pick and choose classified information to release to our enemies, who knows if this was all it took for a terrorist to decide to bomb a specific target or to kill an American citizen who was held hostage or if this motivated more jihadists to join Al Quada's ranks, he basically put his interests above that of the nation and it's people, and worked with the enemy, he's a traitor plain and simple and for that, he deserves to be executed by firing squad.

    December 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • vet2640

      Hi
      Execution by firing squad is not the way to go, this could be viewed as an honorable way to go, a martyrs death, if you know what I mean. This traitor should be publicly hanged in the town square, along with assange, just like benito and saddam.

      December 26, 2011 at 1:28 am | Reply

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