The US soldier accused of leaking thousands of government secrets struggled with emotional problems and gender issues, a court has heard.
Private Bradley Manning faces 22 charges of distributing state secrets to anti-secrecy site Wikileaks.
But his defence have questioned whether he should have been given access to the sensitive documents in the first place.
The hearing, at Fort Meade army base in Maryland, will determine whether Pte Manning should face a court martial.
The hearing began on Friday under tight security and is expected to last around five days.
The defence have failed to get Lt Col Paul Almanza dismissed as presiding officer for the prosecution.
They had said Lt Col Almanza’s refusal to accept all but two of 38 defence witnesses meant the defence could not adequately make their case, but the army’s appeals court rejected their concerns.
Lt Col Almanza, is a former military judge who now works for the Department of Justice, which has its own investigation into Wikileaks.
Under cross-examination of military investigators, details emerged of incidents during Pte Manning’s deployment as an intelligence analyst in Iraq between November 2009 and his arrest in May 2010.
His defence lawyer, David Coombs, highlighted emails his client had sent to a superior officer explaining that confusion about his gender identity was impacting on his ability to do his job.
Hundreds of demonstrators march in support of Bradley Manning outside Fort Meade on Saturday 17 December 2011 Anti-war activists say Pte Manning helped expose mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan and must be freed
Investigators admitted they had found evidence that Pte Manning had created an online alter ego called “Breanna Manning”.
The soldier had also reportedly assaulted a superior, turned over a table, damaged a computer and on another occasion was found “curled up in a ball”.
Mr Coombs pointed out that hundreds of thousands of government employees had access to the military’s classified network, and yet Pte Manning’s access was never revoked.
This hearing has been strange.
First the defense challenged the judge. They lost.
Normally these kind of hearings (similar to a civilian preliminary hearing) are almost a formality. The purpose is to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a trial. The defense usually doesn’t even present witnesses.
Here the defense is putting on a full court press, but they aren’t trying to prove that Manning is factually innocent.
The defense has questioned prosecution witnesses about Manning’s sexual orientation. Apparently he is either gay or has gender identity issues. Normally that would irrelevant to the charges. If the prosecution tried to introduce Manning’s sexual orientation the defense would object. Here, they raised the subject.
They have also raised issues relating to poor security practices and whether Manning was a poor security risk. Normally this would also be irrelevant. (The fact that it is easy to steal does not justify stealing.)
I think Ed Morrissey is on the right track:
I think this is less a defense than a sentencing strategy. It won’t hold up as an insanity plea, even if a court-martial has any such option, so it looks more like they’re stipulating that the evidence will prove Manning did what the Army alleges. This is almost certainly their idea of mitigating circumstances in order to get a lower sentence for Manning, although Jazz’ point on the sudden embrace of gender issues as mental illness is still very, very salient indeed.
Perry Mason never lost a case, but he had the luxury of representing innocent defendants. In real life, most criminal defendants did something wrong. Maybe not what they are charged with, but some lesser crime. Sometimes when they are innocent of the current offense the reason they are facing charges is because they have priors for the same thing.
As a defense attorney it is considered a “win” if you succeed in beating the offer. You don’t need to get an acquittal – if they offered four years but you got it reduced to two – that’s a win.
Bradley Manning is facing life in prison and possibly the death penalty. The indications are the government has a strong case. If Manning gets 5-10 years he should consider himself lucky.
What’s that you say? Manning is a hero and should go free? And the stuff he leaked wasn’t really important anyway?
The first isn’t going to fly in a court-martial, and the second would be a mitigating circumstance, which would mean he was guilty but deserves a lesser sentence.