Those were the clashing portraits of the same young man drawn by the defense and prosecution on the first full day of testimony in a hearing room at Maryland’s Fort Meade to decide whether Manning, who spent his 24th birthday in court, should face a court-martial for the alleged leak.
Manning, a former analyst in Baghdad, was detained in May 2010 and could face the death penalty or life in prison if he is tried and found guilty of all 22 counts of violating military code with which he is charged.
Under cross-examination, a series of government witnesses acknowledged lapses by Manning’s superiors, including a failure to pull his security clearance and deny him access to the classified computers from which he is alleged to have leaked information.
In April, Manning sent an e-mail to a superior, Master Sgt. Paul D. Adkins, saying that he was suffering from a gender identity disorder. He included a picture of himself dressed as a woman and described how it had affected his ability to do his job, to interact with others and to “think,” according to Capt. Steven Lim, military intelligence officer in the 1st Army East Division at Fort Meade.
But Adkins did not share that e-mail with Lim until after Manning was arrested, Lim acknowledged.
Manning also had a Facebook page under the name of Breanna Manning and two e-mail addresses that corresponded to that name, said retired Sgt. 1st Class Troy Bettencourt, an Army investigator in the case.
Bettencourt said he knew that Manning was gay, and that he exhibited “odd” behavior. Manning had been punished for assaulting a supervisor, Bettencourt added, and at one point was found in a room “curled up in a ball.”
Adkins apparently knew that Manning was unstable even before Manning was deployed to Iraq in fall 2009, but did not recommend that he stay behind because the Army was short on intelligence analysts. In December 2009, Manning became “furious” during a counseling session in Baghdad, flipped over a table, damaged a government computer and had to be restrained, and then “went for a weapons rack,” defense attorney David E. Coombs said.
“Would you consider this a minor incident?” Coombs asked Lim.
“Probably not,” said Lim, who was the head of Manning’s military intelligence section in Baghdad with the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.
Lim acknowledged that such behavior could have resulted in a “derogatory” report in Manning’s file resulting in the pulling of his security clearance.
By airing superiors’ failure to address Manning’s personal issues, the defense team is “trying to discover all the failures of the chain of command which would help them in setting up the mitigation argument for the sentencing portion of the proceeding,” said David D. Velloney, a military law expert at Regent University School of Law. But they probably would not suffice to beat the charges, Velloney said. Those charges include aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act by wrongfully causing U.S. intelligence to be published on the Internet.