ORT MEADE, Md. – Al-Qaida leaders reveled in WikiLeaks’ publication of reams of classified U.S. documents, urging members to study them before devising ways to attack the United States, according to evidence presented by the prosecution Monday in the court-martial of an Army private who leaked the material.
“By the grace of God the enemy’s interests are today spread all over the place,” Adam Gadahn, a spokesman for the terrorist group, said in a 2011 al-Qaida propaganda video. The video specifically referred to material obtained from WikiLeaks, according to a written description of the propaganda piece submitted at the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Prosecutors also submitted excerpts from the winter 2010 issue of al-Qaida’s online magazine “Inspire,” telling readers that “anything useful from WikiLeaks is useful for archiving.”
The government also presented evidence that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published and that Manning admittedly leaked. The evidence was a written statement, agreed to by the defence, that the material was found on digital media seized in the May 2011 raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was killed in the raid.
The evidence came as prosecutors neared the end of their case in Manning’s court-martial on charges he aided the enemy by sending hundreds of thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks while working an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
Lead prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein said the U.S. government planned to call its final witness Monday afternoon. That witness, a State Department counterintelligence official, would be the government’s 28th live witness in the trial that began June 3. The government also has presented more than 50 written witness statements.
Manning says he leaked the war logs to expose the U.S. military’s disregard for human life. He also has admitted leaking more than 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables that he said exposed secret deals and U.S. duplicity in foreign affairs.
The 25-year-old is charged with 21 offences, including aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence. To prove that charge, prosecutors must show that Manning, without proper authority, gave intelligence to WikiLeaks, knowing it would be published online and be seen by al-Qaida. Prosecutors also must show he did so with evil intent.
Manning has acknowledged sending WikiLeaks more than 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and State Department diplomatic cables, along with several battlefield video clips.
He told the military judge in February that he leaked the material to document “the true costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” including the deaths of two Reuters employees killed in a U.S. helicopter attack.
Manning has pleaded guilty to reduced charges on seven of eight espionage counts and two computer fraud counts. He also has pleaded guilty to violating a military regulation prohibiting wrongful storage of classified information. The offences he has admitted carry a combined maximum prison term of 20 years.
Despite his pleas, prosecutors are seeking to convict him of the original charges.
© The Associated Press, 2013