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Hearing for accused U.S. Army leaker nears end

Lamo, former computer hacker who informed authorities about PFC Manning, departs from a military Magistrate Court facility at Fort Meade
Lamo, former computer hacker who informed authorities about PFC Manning, departs from a military Magistrate Court facility at Fort Meade

By Lily Kuo

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning's unit in Iraq was characterized by weak oversight, and a violent outburst by the private accused of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history went unreported to higher command, witnesses said on Wednesday.

The testimony was the last given during a hearing to determine whether Manning should be court-martialed on 22 charges, including aiding the enemy and wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet. The prosecution has said the maximum penalty it will seek is life in prison.

Manning, 24, is accused of downloading thousands of classified or confidential files from the military's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet. Those files are thought to be the source of documents that appeared on WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website.

Attorneys will deliver their closing arguments in the hearing on Thursday, after which the investigating officer will review the testimony and make his recommendation on a court martial by January 16 unless he is granted a delay.

Manning, dressed in camouflage fatigues, smiled at photographers as he was escorted to the half-hour hearing on Wednesday between two soldiers. The audience has shrunk since the sessions began last Friday, with only about 20 people in attendance on Wednesday.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, sat near Jennifer Robinson, an attorney representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden, where he has been accused of rape and sexual assault.

Military prosecutors have sought to link Manning to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of several hundred thousand U.S. military documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables.

They introduced online chat logs they said appeared to be conversations between Manning and Assange discussing sending and receiving U.S. government information.

Manning's defense attorneys have attempted to portray him as an emotionally troubled young man whose behavioral problems should have prompted his superiors to revoke his access to classified information.

Witnesses have said Manning sent an email to his sergeant expressing concern that confusion over his gender identity was seriously hurting his life, work and ability to think. Manning had created a female alter-ego online, Breanna Manning, according to testimony at the hearing.

Testimony on Wednesday continued to emphasize those themes. Sergeant Daniel Padgett, a supervisor at the unit where Manning worked, described how the Army private overturned a table in anger, breaking a radio and computers, when reprimanded at a counseling session about his failure to show up on time.

Padgett said he was concerned that Manning might go for a nearby weapon and maneuvered him in the opposite direction while another soldier put him in a full Nelson wrestling hold until he calmed down.

Under questioning by defense lawyer David Coombs, Padgett said he could not remember discussing Manning's outburst with his superiors.

"There could have been more oversight," Padgett said when asked by Coombs about leadership at the intelligence unit where they worked as part of the Army's 10th Mountain Division.

Captain Barclay Keay, another supervisor at the unit where Manning worked, said it was a common practice at the intelligence unit to listen to music and watch videos on the classified computer network.

"Coming in and listening to music ... yeah, it was accepted," Keay said. He said he questioned whether it was appropriate to use the computers for music and videos and asked "lots of people because I didn't know the right answer."

"I didn't get a specific answer," he said. "I just kept asking."

Keay said he believed Manning wanted to be a good soldier.

"He wanted to try and he did good analytical work," he said.

(Writing By David Alexander; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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