Bradley Manning's laptop scrutinized in WikiLeaks trial

Army SPC. Bradley Manning is escorted from his Article 32 hearing February 23, 2012, in Fort Meade, Md. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

FORT MEADE, MarylandPfc. Bradley Manning's court-martial over sending sensitive material to WikiLeaks has resumed with a U.S. Army investigator testifying about what he found on the soldier's personal laptop.

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  • Army computer crimes investigator Mark Johnson testified Wednesday that he found evidence of chats between Manning and Julian Assange, who founded the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Manning faces numerous charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.

    Johnson also testified that Manning used the alias Nathaniel Frank, a historian who wrote a book critical of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

    Manning's defense has said he was a naive but good-intentioned soldier whose struggle to fit in as a gay man in the military made him feel he needed to do something to make a difference.

    The 25-year-old Oklahoma native has said he didn't believe that the more than 700,000 battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and video clips he leaked while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad would hurt national security.

    Yesterday, prosecutors presented evidence that Manning's leaks compromised sensitive information in dozens of categories. The evidence was in the form of written statements that defense and prosecution lawyers accepted as substitutions for live testimony. It was read aloud in court.

    In one statement, a classification expert, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Martin Nehring, said his review of Afghanistan and Iraq battlefield reports revealed techniques for neutralizing improvised explosives, the name of an enemy target, the names of criminal suspects and troop movements.

    The evidence also covered leaked material from the Army's investigation into a 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan's Farah province. The investigation concluded a bomb from a B-1 bomber killed 26 civilians, at least 78 Taliban fighters and five Afghan police officers. Local officials said the attack killed 140 villagers.

    Manning has acknowledged sending WikiLeaks material from the Farah investigation, including several videos, although none were ever posted on the group's website.

    On Tuesday, the defense elicited testimony that appeared to cripple government efforts to prove an espionage charge related to the Farah video. Manning has acknowledged sending the material to WikiLeaks sometime after late March 2010; the government alleges the transmission was in late November 2009. The disputed date became an issue before trial, when prosecutors rejected Manning's offer to plead guilty to a reduced version of the charge, provided the date was changed.

    Army computer crimes investigator David Shaver testified on cross-examination the only evidence of Manning obtaining any video associated with Farah was downloaded April 17, 2010.

    First Amendment lawyer James Goodale, author or "Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles," said a Manning conviction on any one of eight espionage counts or a federal computer fraud charge would enable the government to charge civilians, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

    "In Assange's case relative to Manning, they can treat each of them as co-conspirators and prosecute them," Goodale said in an interview.

    Prosecutors also presented a statement from Manning's aunt, Debra Van Alstyne, who talked about her interview with Army investigators at her Maryland home in June 2010, shortly after Manning's arrest.

    She said one of them asked her how Manning felt about the Army.

    "I knew that Brad was proud of his job and of being in the Army," Van Alstyne said in her statement.

    She also said an investigator collected a digital camera data card Manning had sent her that was found to contain some of the leaked Iraq battlefield reports and video of an Apache helicopter attack that WikiLeaks had posted, showing civilians being killed.

    She said Manning called her after his arrest and asked if she had watched the helicopter video. She said he told her the video would be "big news" and that it would make a "big splash" in America.

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