Defense: Military failed to heed warnings Manning was unstable
Suspected WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning faces a hearing December 16 at Fort Meade, Maryland.
December 8th, 2011
10:17 AM ET

Defense: Military failed to heed warnings Manning was unstable

Before suspected WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning was arrested in May 2010, numerous military personnel considered the young soldier to be mentally unstable, immature and potentially dangerous to himself and others, a new court filing by his defense team says. Read the entire document

The 23-year-old Army intelligence specialist exhibited behavior that should have prompted his superiors to take his weapon and block his access to classified material, according to a 20-page witness list filed last week in the case and published on a blog written by Manning's attorney, David Coombs.

Warnings and concerns about Manning's mental health were either ignored or were not passed up through the chain of command, the document says.

The Army private is due at Fort Meade, Maryland, on December 16 for an Article 32 hearing, a military version of a civilian arraignment. But unlike a civilian hearing, it often includes a considerable amount of testimony and presentation of evidence. The military has said the hearing is expected to last five days. A military officer will decide if Manning will face a court-martial.

Manning faces violations of military law, including aiding the enemy, stealing records, transmitting defense information and fraud. If convicted, he could go to prison for life. He has been held for more than 18 months in military custody and is currently behind bars at Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas.

Witnesses' names are redacted in the document, but their roles related to Manning are described. They include computer forensic experts, psychologists who've examined Manning, FBI agents, military officers and soldiers. Adrian Lamo, the California hacker who allegedly chatted online with Manning, is expected to testify. The chats were first published in Wired, and can be read here.

The defense would also like to call President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify, the Coombs filing indicates. Presumably Obama is being named due to comments he has made regarding Manning's guilt, according to Politico. The defense may be motivated to call Clinton to testify about possible harm the leaking of classified material might have caused.

It's unclear whether all the witnesses Coombs describes will appear in person at the upcoming hearing. The defense attorney writes that he has been "unable to speak" with several witnesses due to "lack of cooperation."

A U.S. Army spokesman said he would not comment on the statements by Manning's attorney.  "It would be inappropriate to comment at this point with proceedings under way," said Christopher Grey, public affairs officer for the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

The witness list document is the first inside glimpse into what could be Manning's two-prong defense strategy. First, it says that Manning's superiors and fellow soldiers knew for a long time he was a loose cannon, but that they failed to act on their concerns by either helping Manning or removing him. Second, the document describes witnesses saying that it was common for soldiers to install and store unauthorized media such as music, movies and games alongside sensitive, classified intelligence in the system. Soldiers didn't think it was wrong to do so; it was just how things were done, the document suggests.

According to the chat log that Wired published, Manning allegedly pretended to be singing along to a Lady Gaga song when he was reportedly downloading reams of secret intelligence about the Afghan and Iraq wars, and a quarter-million U.S. diplomatic cables.

In 2010 and early 2011, WikiLeaks caused an international sensation by publishing that classified information. U.S. officials called the disclosure a threat not only to national security but also to informants named in some of the leaked intelligence. It's still unknown if anyone was harmed as a result of WikiLeaks publishing secret information.

Here are some highlights from the witness list:

  • A few months before Manning was arrested, Army command referred the soldier to a psychologist for evaluation. According to the psychologist, "Manning appeared to be under considerable stress" and "did not appear to have any social support system and seemed hypersensitive to any criticism" and "was potentially a danger to himself and others." The psychologist recommended that Manning's weapon be taken away and that he be moved from the night shift to the day shift to work "low-intensity" duty. The psychologist "does not remember why" he didn't check a box recommending Manning have his security clearance revoked, according to the defense witness list document. Had the psychologist done so, the clearance would have indeed been revoked, Coombs writes.
  • Several witnesses described Manning as unstable. At one point, Manning curled up in the fetal position in a meeting room, rocking back and forth.
  • Other witnesses are expected to testify that Manning was teased for being gay and was upset about the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The policy was lifted this year.
  • A witness described as an Army supervisor is set to testify at the hearing that in December 2009 Manning erupted in an outburst, flipped a table over and charged toward a weapons rack. Manning had to be restrained, according to the document.
  • When Manning's name first hit the international press shortly after his arrest in spring 2010, media reports (including CNN reporting) said Manning was believed to have been involved in an altercation in Iraq, possibly a person with his unit, and consequently demoted. The defense's filing references Manning assaulting someone (though the name of the other person is redacted). As a result of this assault, Manning was sent to work in a supply room, according to a witness in Coombs' filing.
  • A witness says he filled out a form to suspend Manning's security clearance and was going to go to "Behavioral Health to discuss Manning's condition." The witness told officials that "Manning's troubles were deeper than the Army could fix and that he should be separated."
  • Much of the witness list document details the computer system where soldiers "would have a huge amount of unauthorized material" (in one instance 500 gigabytes) stored alongside sensitive intelligence. An Army staffer is set to testify that he complained often about that material but that his complaints were ignored. When he felt like it, he would frequently check the system and delete entertainment material.
  • "The Army had become too comfortable working on SIPRNet while deployed," which "bred some complacency because of the ease of access," one witness told Coombs. The witness was referring to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, a system of interconnected computer networks used by the Defense and State departments to transmit classified data.

    CNN's Charley Keyes contributed to this report.

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    Filed under: Bradley Manning • Security Brief • WikiLeaks
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