Instead, Lamo contacted authorities with suspicions that Manning, an intelligence analyst with a top-secret clearance, had committed one of the largest national security breaches in U.S. history.
These exchanges between Lamo and Manning, a baby-faced tech savant who joined the Army in a bid to turn around a troubled life, could be among the key evidence in a pretrial hearing starting Friday at a Military District of Washington courtroom at Fort Meade. Investigators also have forensic evidence from computers used by Manning and data from the WikiLeaks Web site.
Manning, who turns 24 Saturday, has been accused of aiding the enemy, violating the Espionage Act and several lesser charges — enough to send him away for life. Aiding the enemy carries a potential death sentence, but Army officials have said they will not seek it. At the Article 32 hearing, which is likely to last for several days, an investigating officer will determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to send Manning to trial. It will be up to a convening authority whether to refer the case to a court-martial.
The case centers on hundreds of thousands of government documents that Manning allegedly provided to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy group that later released them. About 100 news organizations have requested credentials to the hearing. Busloads of Manning supporters are expected to arrive to stage demonstrations.
This will be Manning’s first public appearance since he was removed from his job at a forward operating base in Baghdad in May 2010 and jailed. At the hearing, his attorney can call witnesses and cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. Manning is unlikely to speak, legal experts said.
“He’s considered a hero by some because of the information he’s released, but the military and the administration have to treat this seriously because of the apparent fact that he released classified information,” said David Velloney, a Regent University law professor and former Army lawyer.
The most serious charges require proving intent. Aiding the enemy will be the most difficult, requiring prosecutors to show that “reasonable grounds” exist to believe that he knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy. Relying on the chat logs alone probably will not suffice, said Michael J. Navarre, a military law expert and former lieutenant commander in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
“In the chat logs there’s no specific reference to aiding foreign enemies,” he said. “The only references are to his desire to have this information out in the public domain.”