The hearing also uncovered previously unknown details in the case.
Special Agent Mark Mander with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division said that Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker whose online chats with Manning led investigators to Manning, led investigators to a former Energy Department employee who Lamo said helped WikiLeaks decrypt a military video provided by Manning.
The employee, Jason Katz, was fired from Brookhaven National Labs in March 2010 for “inappropriate computer activity,” Mander said. The video, of an airstrike on an Afghan village that killed dozens of civilians, has not been posted by WikiLeaks.
Mander also said that Manning’s aunt, Debra Van Alstyne, told him that Manning had contacted her while he was in Iraq to ask her how WikiLeaks’ release of a 2007 Army video showing an Apache helicopter firing on civilians was “being perceived in the United States.” After Manning was detained, he again contacted her and asked her to post a reference on his Facebook page to the Apache video, Mander said.
Mander said that when investigators made a second visit to Van Alstyne’s home in Potomac, where Manning had lived before joining the Army, they recovered a memory card containing classified information and other digital media.
In the audience were two attorneys for WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. A federal grand jury is investigating Assange’s role in the leaks, and on Friday, Coombs suggested that the Justice Department has an interest in obtaining a plea bargain in the Manning case and using Manning “as one of the many witnesses to go after Julian Assange.”
Jennifer Robinson, an attorney for WikiLeaks, said “it is very clear that the matters raised here in these proceedings have potential ramifications” for WikiLeaks and Assange, who is in London. “Our concerns,” she said, focus on “a potential extradition request for Mr. Assange.”
At one point, Coombs asked Bettencourt whether Manning’s military leadership had failed him.
“I would like to think if I were in the chain of command, I would have handled it differently and prevented him from deploying,” Bettencourt said. “But that is in hindsight.”