FORT MEADE, Md. — Defense attorneys for Pfc. Bradley Manning — an Army intelligence specialist accused of leaking government secrets — argued Saturday that Manning’s status as a gay soldier prior to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” played a role in his actions.
At a hearing to determine whether Manning will be court-martialed on 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, attorney’s began laying out a defense to show that Manning’s struggled in an environment hostile to homosexuality, which contributed to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material.
Among the first issues to arise Saturday was whether Manning’s sexual orientation is relevant to the case against him.
The defense revealed that Manning had written to one of his supervisors in Baghdad before his arrest, saying he was suffering from gender-identity disorder. He included a picture of himself dressed as a woman and talked about how it was affecting his ability to do his job and even think clearly.
Maj. Matthew Kemkes, a defense lawyer, asked Special Agent Toni Graham, an Army criminal investigator, whether she had talked to people who believed Manning was gay or found evidence among his belongings relating to gender-identity disorder. The condition often is described as a mental diagnosis in which people believe they were born the wrong sex.
Graham said such questions were irrelevant to the investigation. “We already knew before we arrived that Pfc. Manning was a homosexual,” Graham said.
Witnesses at the hearing noted that Manning had created a female alter ego, calling himself Breanna Manning.
Several Army investigators — pressed by Manning’s defense team — testified that in the course of their investigation they became aware of Manning’s female alter ego, and that a search of Manning’s room in Baghdad found medical information about female hormone treatments for people with gender identity disorder.
Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive items to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, including Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, State Department cables and a military video of a 2007 American helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver.