Closing arguments: Manning lawyer says case circumstantial

  • Defense says prosecutors "cherry picked" information in presenting case
  • Bradley Manning is accused in largest leak of classified information
  • Prosecution says Manning had "no allegiance" to the United States

By Larry Shaughnessy

CNN Pentagon Producer

FORT MEADE, Maryland (CNN) -- Prosecutors "cherry picked" information and took statements "out of context" in alleging Bradley Manning brazenly leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks, the lead attorney for the former Army intelligence analyst said on Friday.

In closing arguments at Manning's court martial, lead defense attorney David Coombs disputed prosecution claims that he was selfish and knew exactly what he was doing in carrying out the largest leak of its kind in U.S. history while in Iraq during the war.

Manning, among other counts, is charged with aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life prison sentence. He has pleaded guilty to nearly a dozen lesser charges that carry a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.

Manning is accused of downloading and transmitting hundreds of thousands of documents relating to combat video from Iraq, information about detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and diplomatic cables, officials said.

Prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein said on Thursday in the courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland, that Manning was not interested in obeying the oaths and non-disclosure agreements he swore to before going to Iraq.

He also indicated during his summation that Manning did all of it knowing that enemies of the United States, including al Qaeda, would be able to access the information.

"Manning had no allegiance to the United States," Fein said, adding that he was "not a whistle blower; he was a traitor."

But Coombs said the government failed to make a convincing case that will be decided by a military judge, Col. Denise Lind.

"The evidence is circumstantial. The government failed to prove actual knowledge" that the information he leaked would get to the enemy, he said.

Manning has said previously that he passed on information that "upset" or "disturbed" him but he didn't give WikiLeaks anything he thought would harm the United States if it were made public.

WikiLeaks has never confirmed that Manning was the source of its information.

Coombs on Friday made several points in trying to upend the prosecution arguments.

The defense showed an Iraq War video that is at the heart of the case.

The video was shot from a U.S. Apache helicopter as it attacked a group of people in Baghdad in 2007. A Reuters TV news cameraman and his driver were among a dozen people killed.

Manning, 25, has said the video and the behavior of the Americans involved bothered him to the point where he uploaded the images to WikiLeaks.

"Did they all deserve to die? That is what PFC Manning is seeing when he watches this," Coombs said.

Coombs said Manning told Adrian Lamo, a former computer hacker who tipped federal authorities to Manning's activities and testified for the prosecution, that he believed the leaks would "disclose true casualty figures in Iraq" and it was "important that the information got out."

Coombs also pointed to a photo that was shown several times in court on Thursday. Prosecutors depicted a smiling Manning in a cross-dressing image as proof he was proud of the crimes he is accused of committing.

But Coombs said Manning, who is gay, was happy because the picture showed a situation in which Manning could "be himself."

Manning has attracted a number of supporters who claim he is a whistle blower.

Following a break on Friday, Lind announced that a member of the gallery had been excluded from the court for the remainder of the trial for breaking court rules.

Lind did not identify the person, but military officials removed the belongings of a man in the media center who was wearing a "Support Bradley Manning" shirt when he arrived at court.

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