Mr. Coombs hopes to show that the Army did not adequately monitor Manning’s erratic behavior – at one point the bolt reportedly was removed from his weapon, making it inoperable – and that the leaked information may have been politically and diplomatically embarrassing but it wasn't all that harmful to national security.
That’s why Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on his list of requested witnesses. She has been quoted as saying that the leaked documents “did not represent significant consequences to foreign policy.”
Also on Coombs’s witness wish list is President Obama, the US commander in chief and Manning’s superior. Coombs will argue that Obama prejudiced the case when he said last year that Manning “broke the law.”
It is unlikely that either Secretary Clinton or Mr. Obama will testify. The government is opposing all requested defense witnesses except for the 10 witnesses also requested by the government.
Manning’s case has generated worldwide interest and in some cases protest – particularly for the many months he was held in solitary confinement. It’s the largest and most controversial case involving WikiLeaks, the self-styled whistle-blower website that released to several newspapers the hundreds of thousands of cables, videos, and other information allegedly provided by Manning.
Manning was a military analyst in Iraq where, despite his low rank, he had wide access to sensitive and classified information. Among other things, Manning allegedly downloaded and leaked video footage of an attack by a US Apache helicopter gunship that killed Iraqi civilians, including two employees of the Reuters news agency.
During the months when Manning worked with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Iraq, it was apparently easy for him to find, download, and copy sensitive military information. Writing in an online chat, he claims to have had “unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months.”