FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — A former supervisor of Pfc. Bradley Manning testified Friday that Manning told her the American flag meant nothing to him and he had no allegiance to the United States.
The testimony of Jihrleah Showman was elicited by prosecutors, who have charged Manning with aiding the enemy by leaking reams of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with a “general evil intent,” knowing it would be seen by al-Qaida members.
During a lengthy cross-examination, defense attorney David Coombs sought to discredit Showman. He implied she made up the conversation because she disliked Manning, partly because he is gay.
Showman, a former Army specialist, said Manning made the comments in a conversation they had a couple months before they deployed to the war zone in late 2009.
“I tapped the flag on my shoulder and asked him what it meant,” she said. “He said the flag meant nothing to him and he did not consider himself to have allegiance to this country or any people.”
She said she was “distraught” by the statement and suspected Manning was a spy.
Coombs suggested that what Manning really said was that people shouldn’t have “blind allegiance to a flag” and that “you cannot be an automaton.” Showman said she didn’t remember Manning saying those things.
Coombs also asked Showman why she didn’t write up Manning in a “counseling statement,” a military disciplinary document, since she had counseled Manning in writing about excessive smoke breaks and drinking too much coffee. She acknowledged she had also recommended him at one point for soldier of the month.
If a soldier made disloyal comments, “that would be a serious matter,” Coombs said.
Showman said she reported the comments verbally to her supervisor, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Adkins. Adkins, now retired, testified he didn’t remember such a conversation, but also said his memory is impaired because of a fall he suffered during one of his deployments. Adkins also said he didn’t recall hearing Manning making any disloyal remarks before his arrest in May 2010.
Prosecutor Capt. Angel Overgaard later produced a document that Adkins signed in June 2011 stating he had informed a supervisor about Showman’s allegation.
Adkins was administratively reduced from master sergeant to sergeant first class for failing to take proper steps to address Manning’s emotional outbursts and other issues before they deployed for Iraq, according to Adkins’ testimony and a defense filing.
Manning, a 25-year-old Oklahoma native, has acknowledged giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department diplomatic cables, along with battlefield videos and other documents. He downloaded them in late 2009 and early 2010 from a classified government computer network while working as in intelligence analyst in Iraq. WikiLeaks posted much of the material online.
Manning faces a possible life sentence without parole if convicted of aiding the enemy. He also is charged with espionage, computer fraud, theft and other offenses.
Manning has said he leaked the material to provoke public discussion about what he considered wrongdoing by American troops and diplomats. The material included video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. A military investigation concluded the troops reasonably mistook the photography equipment for weapons.
Manning chose to be tried by a judge, rather than a jury. The court-martial ended its seventh week Friday at the Fort Meade Army base outside Baltimore. The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, said it will resume Thursday with her ruling on defense motions to dismiss five theft counts, followed by closing arguments.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)