FORT MEADE, Md. - A seven-day hearing into the biggest national security leak in U.S. history ended Thursday with defense lawyers insisting that the accused soldier was a victim of overreaching by a military that didn't even follow its own rules for safeguarding sensitive information.
The government argued that it had made its case for a court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, a troubled young intelligence analyst who prosecutors said aided the enemy by leaking troves of documents.
Lawyers for the prosecution and defense gave closing arguments in the preliminary hearing at a military base outside Washington to determine whether Manning should be tried for allegedly sending hundreds of thousands of diplomatic documents and Iraq and Afghanistan war zone field reports to the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks.
The presiding officer, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, has until Jan. 16 to recommend whether the 24-year-old Crescent, Okla., native should be court-martialed.
Speaking for more than an hour, the chief prosecutor, Capt. Ashden Fein, methodically recounted evidence supporting each of the 22 charges, illustrating his arguments with several dozen slides projected on courtroom screens.
"He did this during a time of war," Fein said. Laid bare on the Internet last year were military procedures for providing air support for ground troops and procedures used to fly the injured out for medical treatment, he said.
Leaked documents also included names of units, intelligence sources and methods, as well as tactics used by troops in general, including secretive special-operations commando forces, he said.
"He wrongfully and wantonly caused the information to be published on the Internet" knowing that "enemies of the United States use the Internet," Fein said.
Manning was trained and trusted to provide intelligence that battlefield commanders needed, and he abused that trust while serving in Iraq from late 2009 to mid-2010, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney David Coombs spoke for about 20 minutes and never denied his client had leaked the documents.
But he said the Army had failed Manning as he repeatedly struggled with emotional problems, and that the government was now piling on charges in an attempt to strong-arm Manning into pleading guilty.