Bradley Manning defense begins by painting picture of naive, ‘go-to guy’

Just over a month after his court martial began, Pfc. Bradley Manning's defense team began to present its case in a Maryland military court Monday.

After a technical delay, the defense began by showing the entire 39-minute video of a 2007 Apache helicopter gunship attack in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters reporters.

Manning is accused of leaking the video to WikiLeaks, as well as more than 700,000 classified files and diplomatic cables, while e was serving in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.

The first witness for the defense, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Ehresman, described Manning as his “go-to guy,” when they served together as intelligence specialists in Iraq. Ehresman, who is senior-ranking to Manning, described Manning’s work product as “the best,” saying that he “would come up with exactly what you were looking for,” when given a task.

Manning excelled in “data mining,” Ehresman said, but acknowledged that his ability to analyze the information was poor. Manning was weak in his assessments and frequently jumped to conclusions before checking all his sources or working with his fellow soldiers, Ehresman said, adding that he was weak in the “social” aspect of his intelligence work.

Ehresman went on to say that Manning’s computer literacy was “very high.”

The defense, led by attorney David Coombs, is expected to present a picture of a young, naive man who released information to the public because he was so concerned about the injustice and wrong in the world around him. The defense has indicated that they may call as many as 46 witnesses, but the complete list has not been made public.

The 25-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., is charged with 21 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence. To prove that charge, prosecutors must show Manning gave intelligence to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, knowing it would be published online and seen by an enemy of the United States. 

The prosecution rested its case last Tuesday after presenting evidence from 80 witnesses, trying to prove the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst let military secrets fall into the hands of al-Qaeda and its former leader Osama bin Laden. The court martial is being conducted at Fort Meade.

While the court was in recess over the Independence Day holiday weekend, Manning's attorneys filed four motions arguing for not guilty findings on several charges.

The government has requested an extension to respond to the motions. The trial judge, Colonel Denise Lind, has given the defense until July 11 to respond to the defense motions, but she has indicated that the defense can continue to present its case while those motions are being litigated.