Prosecutor portrays Pfc. Bradley Manning as traitor during closing arguments


Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted from court on Thursday in Fort Meade, Md. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

A military prosecutor spent hours Thursday depicting Army Pfc. Bradley Manning as a methodical, attention-seeking traitor who used advanced computer skills to dredge up hundreds of thousands of secret documents sought by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

In closing arguments in a landmark trial that has revealed details about the largest breach of U.S. classified information in history, Maj. Ashden Fein sought to convince an Army judge that Manning’s actions were not those of a perturbed, malleable soldier. The attorney displayed a photo of a radiant Manning, smiling as he took a photo of himself in a mirror.

“This is not a picture of a troubled person conflicted by his actions,” Fein said, speaking behind a wooden lectern in a small courtroom at Fort Meade. “This is a picture of someone who thinks he was finally becoming famous.”

Fein said the private’s specialized training as an intelligence analyst made him fully cognizant of how damaging unloading troves of classified information could be for U.S. national security.

Manning, 25, is accused of aiding the enemy and 20 other charges. When he pleaded guilty this year to less serious offenses, he said he was motivated by a desire to expose troubling conduct by the U.S. government, from his vantage point as an intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.

Fein sought to convince the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, that Manning relished the damage he was inflicting on his country.

“Hillary Clinton is going to have a heart attack,” Fein quoted Manning as having said, referring to how he expected the then-secretary of state would react when she learned that hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables had entered the public domain.

Manning’s attorney has argued during the trial, which began last month, that the government has not presented evidence that the soldier knew that al-Qaeda used the leaked documents for battlefield gain. Fein said copies of the documents have been found in the possession of al-Qaeda members.

By calling Manning a “capable soldier” who exploited his specialized training as an intelligence analyst, Fein appears to preempt a potential defense rebuttal that could seek to portray the soldier as troubled. He said Manning acted with “evil intent.”

Manning sat quietly in the courtroom wearing his dress blue Army uniform. Several attendees who hail the defendant as a conscientious whistleblower sat in the courtroom wearing black T-shirts bearing the word “truth” printed in white.

Manning’s attorney is scheduled to deliver closing arguments on Friday. A ruling could come over the weekend or next week.

Ernesto Londoño covers the Pentagon for the Washington Post.
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