Defense rests in WikiLeaks trial, Manning doesn’t testify

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, center, is escorted out after a day of testimony at his court martial trial at Fort Meade, Md., on July 8. Reuters file

Pfc. Bradley Manning's defense team rested its case on Wednesday without the former Army intelligence analyst taking the stand in his court martial for allegedly giving military secrets to an anti-secrecy website.

Manning, 25, told Judge Col. Denise Lind that he did not want to testify in his own defense against accusations that he leaked more than 700,000 classified files and diplomatic cables to the website WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors argued that Manning -- who was in possession of military secrets he obtained while serving in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 -- allowed the documents to fall into the hands of al Qaeda. They presented evidence from 80 witnesses to make their case against Manning, and will call rebuttal witnesses Monday, when the trial reconvenes.

Manning faces 21 charges, including aiding the enemy, which would carry a possible life sentence.

Lawyers for Manning at one time indicated they would call as many as 46 witnesses, but ended up only calling 10.

Though the Crescent, Okla., native did not take the stand during his court martial, he did testify during a pre-trial hearing that he leaked the sensitive documents to expose U.S. atrocities in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The final witness for the defense on Wednesday was Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler, who testified that WikiLeaks' publication of the classified information changed public perception.

WikiLeaks is "a clear distinct component of what in the history of journalism we see as high points, where journalists are able to come in and say, 'Here's a system operating in a way that is obscure to the public and now we're able to shine the light,'" said Benkler. 

Before the site published the information in April 2010, even the Pentagon considered WikiLeaks a news site, Benkler said.

Manning’s lawyers hope Benkler’s testimony will show he intended to give the information to a news source, and did not mean for it to get into the hands of a terrorist organization.

Lind will determine the verdict.

The trial is scheduled to be concluded by Aug. 23.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.