FORT MEADE, Md. — Bradley Manning's preliminary hearing is ending, but it could be weeks before the former Army intelligence analyst learns whether he will be court-martialed for allegedly creating the biggest national security leak in U.S. history.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys were set to make closing arguments Thursday, the seventh day of Pfc. Manning's so-called Article 32 hearing. Presiding officer Lt. Col. Paul Almanza then will have until Jan. 16 to recommend whether the 24-year-old Crescent, Okla., native should stand trial for aiding the enemy and 21 other charges.
Military officials say Almanza's timeline could be extended, and there is no deadline for a final decision by Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington, commander of the Military District of Washington.
The standard of proof is whether reasonable grounds exist to believe Manning committed the alleged offenses.
It's been nearly 19 months since Manning was charged with giving to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks a trove of classified data, including hundreds of thousands of State Department diplomatic cables and raw battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. There was also video of a laughing U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men, including a Reuters cameraman and his driver, in a clip WikiLeaks dubbed "Collateral Murder."
The reason Manning allegedly gave for the disclosures, in online chats with a confidant who turned him in: "I want people to see the truth."
His lawyers are building a three-pronged defense: Manning was a troubled man who shouldn't have had access to classified material, let alone served in Iraq; security at his workplace was weak; and the published material did little or no harm to national security.
The prosecution's three main witnesses were, like Manning, computer experts.
Adrian Lamo, a onetime convicted hacker, testified he gave investigators records of his May 2010 online chats with a correspondent using the screen name "bradass87" who bragged about engineering "possibly the largest data spillage in American history" from his Army post in Baghdad.
Two computer forensic examiners said they found evidence on Manning's workplace and personal computers that he had downloaded battlefield reports from the military's supposedly secure network and emailed them to WikiLeaks.
The defense called just two witnesses — a sergeant who witnessed one of Manning's fits of rage and a captain who found it odd that intelligence analysts were allowed to load personal music CDs into computers linked to the classified data network. Manning allegedly downloaded the diplomatic cables onto a rewritable CD labeled "Lady Gaga," while lip-synching her song "Telephone."
Throughout the proceedings, Manning remained outwardly calm while witnesses talked about his emotional problems, his difficulties as a gay soldier during the military's "don't ask, don't tell" era, and his violent outbursts while serving in the United States and then in Iraq from late 2009 to mid-2010.