Manning’s defense attorney, David E. Coombs, accused military prosecutors of “over-charging” in the case in an effort to obtain a plea agreement and gain the former intelligence analyst’s cooperation in a separate, federal case against Assange.
In just over an hour of closing arguments at a pretrial hearing, the prosecutors disclosed three new excerpts of chat logs taken from Manning’s personal Macintosh laptop. In one, he allegedly asks Assange for help in figuring out a password. In another, he allegedly tells Assange “i’m throwing everything i’ve got on’’ Guantanamo detainee reports “at you now” and estimates the “upload is about 36 pct” complete.
To which Assange replied, according to the prosecutors’ PowerPoint presentation, “OK . . . great.”
Baher Azmy, an attorney for Assange with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the evidence is speculative. “We have no access to and cannot review or see the government’s evidence,” he said. “We do not know if it is reliable.”
Thursday’s dramatic proceedings brought to a close a seven-day hearing at Fort Meade to determine whether Manning will face a court-martial and under what charges. Coombs seemed to concede that the court-martial will proceed, making an impassioned plea that the charges Manning might face be reduced from 22 to three. He argued that the maximum sentence should be not the death penalty or life in prison but a maximum of 30 years behind bars.
The military will render a decision early next year on whether a court-martial will take place.
In a 20-minute summation, Coombs argued that Manning, now 24, was struggling with a gender-identity crisis so severe that he was unable to function even before he deployed to Iraq in October 2009. Coombs said Manning’s superiors repeatedly failed to act on signs of his distress.
Coombs read an anguished e-mail from Manning in which he told a superior about his “problem” with gender identity. “I thought a career in the military would get rid of it,” he wrote.
Coombs also argued that Manning was young, idealistic and “with a strong moral compass” — someone who believed “you can change the world.”
He argued that WikiLeaks’ posting of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables, and voluminous databases of Iraq and Afghanistan military field reports, has not caused harm to the United States, and that the government’s claim that “there’s been extreme harm . . . is an overreaction.”
“The sky has not fallen,” Coombs said. “The sky is not falling. And the sky will not fall.”