FORT MEADE, Md. — A former top Army officer who oversaw the Pentagon’s secret intelligence gathering testified Wednesday that Pfc. Bradley Manning’s disclosures to WikiLeaks “affected our ability to do our mission” and endangered U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Robert Carr, formerly at the Defense Intelligence Agency and now an executive at defense contractor Northrop Grumman, was the government’s first witness in the sentencing phase of Manning’s court-martial. Military prosecutors hope to win a maximum prison term of 136 years for Manning.
Manning, 25, was convicted Tuesday of violating the Espionage Act but acquitted of the more serious charge: aiding the enemy by making the material available to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
Manning’s defense is hoping for a much shorter prison sentence and asked the military judge hearing the case to merge two of his espionage convictions and two of his theft convictions. If Army Col. Denise Lind agrees to do so, he would face up to 116 years in prison.
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Carr said the U.S. military was stunned to discover that so much material had been given to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy website. The disclosures included more than 700,000 documents, including combat strategies, State Department cables and terrorism detainee assessments.
“There was nothing about (the) WikiLeaks (situation) that was normal,” said Carr, who spent much of his 31-year military career directing Army intelligence-gathering operations.
Releasing so much classified material, he said, put countless people at risk. “It’s a nasty world,” Carr said. “In some cases, lives will be harmed.” He did not specify anyone who was harmed by Manning’s disclosures.
Carr said sources of information dried up and “quit talking to us as a result of the releases.”
He said some countries began registering complaints after reading the detainee assessments for terrorism suspects held at the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At the time, Carr said: “We were trying to move people out of Gitmo,” and the compromised records stalled negotiations with foreign countries.
In addition, he said, U.S. supply lines were compromised because details of military logistics were divulged and secret surveys of communities in Afghanistan were jeopardized.
Military prosecutors said they would call as many as 20 witnesses for the sentencing phase.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.