Manning watches silently as his trial draws to a close

The trial of Army Private Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst who admitted to giving a trove of documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, is coming to a close in a military courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland, outside Washington. A media room set up for about 70 reporters a few hundred metres from the courtroom was suddenly full of journalists Thursday, and security was the tightest seen since the trial began eight weeks ago.

Manning watches silently as his trial draws to a close

Military prosecutors argue that Manning acted out of personal interest and disregarded the safety of his fellow soldiers when he released the largest leak of classified materials in US history. The most serious charge he faces is aiding the enemy, which could see him sentenced to a term of life in prison. Manning’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to have the charges reduced.

 

Manning’s supporters, who have sometime gathered outside Fort Meade to condemn his trial, call him a hero. A group of people hoping to help pay for Manning’s defence took out a full-page advertisement Thursday in The New York Times asking for donations to pay his legal fees. The text declared: „We will not relent until this American hero is free.“

 

A military judge will soon decide Manning’s fate. Prosecutor Ashen Feins focused on the grin in a photograph Manning snapped of himself as he was about to send the military documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. The image captures the moment Manning’s life changed. What can be read in his facial expression?

 

Feins described it as proof of Manning’s malicious intent – that he knew his actions would be damaging to his country. Signing off an email to WikiLeaks, Manning addressed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: „Have a good day.“ „The only human being Private First Class Bradley Manning actually cared about was himself,“ Fein said, arguing that the defendant was trying to gain the favour of Assange, a star of the internet whistleblower scene who had already made his WikiLeaks platform famous. „It is obvious that Manning pulled as much information as possible to please Assange.“

 

Assange counselled Manning and gave him tips on how to protect himself and how to hide, Fein said. Manning’s trial started last month, just a few weeks after fugitive National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed details about US surveillance programmes. Snowden remains in diplomatic limbo in the Moscow airport, while Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

 

The slightly built Manning, 25, sat silently in his dark blue Army uniform as he followed the closing arguments, showing hardly any reactions. He has been jailed for more than three years since his 2010 arrest in Iraq. The heightened security measures in the media room on Thursday showed the serious nature of the proceedings. Journalists‘ bags were searched and armed soldiers patrolled to watch whether any of them tried to send reports to the internet while the court was in session. The prosecution’s closing arguments stretched all day Thursday, pushing the defence summation to Friday at the earliest.

 

Written for dpa, published amongst others by Business Recorder.