Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Extortion by public officer or employeeWashington, DC, United States (4E) – A prosecutor accused Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning of endangering the lives of fellow soldiers at the start of his court martial at Fort Meade for stealing classified military information and passing these to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Capt. Joe Morrow said the subsequent release by WikiLeaks of the U.S. diplomatic cables and war logs in Iraq, including videos of airstrikes, on the Internet made them available to the enemy, including the terrorist group al Qaeda. Morrow said Manning “knew the dangers of unauthorized disclosure and ignored those dangers,” according to Washington Post.

Manning is facing 22 charges, including espionage, and faces life imprisonment if not the death penalty. Morrow told the court martial judge that Manning started harvesting the 700,000 government and military files from secure networks as soon as he started working as an intelligence analyst at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq in November 2009.

Defending Manning is Atty. David Coombs, who described his client as idealistic and naïve. Coombs said Manning considered the information he was releasing as already declassified by Pentagon and were already in the public domain, like the assessment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The lawyer is seeking a lesser sentence for Manning.

Two Army investigators and Manning’s former roommate in Iraq testified at the trial. Thomas Smith, a special agent of the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division, said he found and seized a CD from Manning’s room in Iraq. The CD contained a video of the death of two Reuters news agency employees. Smith also seized computers that Manning used.