Fort Meade, Maryland, Aug 1: Prosecutors of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning were expected to focus on the damage done by his release through WikiLeaks of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables as his sentencing hearing continued Thursday.
The witnesses scheduled to testify at the sentencing hearing's second day include John Feeley, a State Department deputy assistant secretary who also testified during Manning's trial.
The former intelligence analyst faces up to 136 years in prison for sending the cables and more than 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports to the anti-secrecy website.
The government opened its sentencing case Wednesday with testimony that WikiLeaks' publication of the leaked battlefield reports fractured U.S. military relationships with foreign governments and silenced some friendly Afghan villagers.
The government says it will present as many as 20 sentencing witnesses through Aug. 9 before the defense gets its turn.
Manning admits giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy-site WikiLeaks. He says he did it to expose U.S military “bloodlust” and diplomatic deceitfulness, but he did not believe his actions would harm the country.
The 25-year-old has been called both a whistleblower and a traitor, and his case has been watched worldwide.
He didn't testify during the trial, but he could take the stand during the sentencing phase.
Manning was convicted of 20 of 22 charges, but he was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, which alone could have meant life in prison without parole. Prosecutors failed to prove Manning had “general evil intent.”
His defense lawyers now have asked the military judge to merge two of his espionage convictions and two of his theft convictions. If the judge agrees, he would face up to 116 years in prison.
The judge prohibited both sides from presenting evidence during trial about any actual damage the leaks caused to national security and troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but lawyers can bring that up at sentencing.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Robert Carr testified Wednesday that the classified documents Manning disclosed fractured U.S. military relationships with foreign governments and Afghan villagers.
Carr headed a Defense Department task force that assessed the fallout from the leaks. He said the material identified hundreds of Afghan villagers by name, causing some of them to stop helping U.S. forces.
The leaks embarrassed the U.S. and its allies. U.S. officials warned of dire consequences immediately after the first disclosures in July 2010, but a Defense Department review later suggested those fears might have been too dramatic.
Advocates for freedom of the press had warned that convicting Manning on a charge of aiding the enemy could have broad implications for leak cases and investigative journalism about national security issues.
Still, the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said the verdict was a chilling warning to whistleblowers, “against whom the Obama administration has been waging an unprecedented offensive.” The group said it threatens the future of investigative journalism because intimidated sources might fall quiet.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called the verdict “a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism.”
The leaked material WikiLeaks published documented complaints of abuses against Iraqi detainees, a U.S. count of civilian deaths in Iraq, and America's weak support for the government of Tunisia—a disclosure Manning supporters said helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring.
Prosecutors presented evidence the material fell into the hands of al-Qaida and its former leader, Osama bin Laden, but they struggled to prove their assertion that
Manning was an anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor.