After Tuesday's verdict, the sentencing hearings for Bradley Manning got underway on Wednesday with something of a setback for the government's prosecution: the counter-intelligence official in charge of investigating the impact of the Wikileaks disclosures couldn't find a single instance of someone getting killed because of Manning's leaks.
That admission, from now-retired Brigadier general Robert Carr, sounds a bit like a record scratch for the U.S.'s go-to argument against whistleblower activity: that the release of classified information puts lives at risk. Carr was in charge of the post-Wikileaks investigation into the disclosures' impact. The Guardian recounts the exchange that ultimately led to part of Carr's testimony being struck from the record:
Carr initially toldl the judge presiding over the case, Colonel Denise Lind, that there had been an individual killed in Afghanistan as a result of the publication by WikiLeaks of the Afghan war logs that recorded military activities on the ground. "As a result of the Afghan logs I know of one individual killed – an Afghan national who had a relationship with the US government and the Taliban came out and said publicly that they had killed him as a result of him being associated with information in these logs," Carr said.
But under defence cross-examination Carr conceded that the victim's name had not be included in the war logs made public by WikiLeaks. Asked by Lind whether the individual who was killed was tied to the disclosures, Carr replied: "The Taliban killed him and tied him to the disclosures. We went back and looked for the name in the disclosures. The name of the individual killed was not in the disclosures."
The Afghan war logs contained over 900 names, many of whom were already dead by the time the information was leaked. Carr also said he wasn't aware of anyone dying from the Iraq logs information, either, after the U.S's 10-month, $6.2 million dollar investigation. But Carr himself clarified that he stood by the assertion that the leaks had the potential to endanger lives, and to have an impact on U.S. intelligence work. He, speaking as a witness for the prosecution, said that the U.S. lost informants and supply lines because of the leaks. Another witness, John Kirchhofer, described an angry scene with NATO reps following the leak (via the LA Times):
“There were some unpleasant comments directed at me and some accusations directed at the U.S.,” he said. “They were aggressive. People got chesty.”
According to the Huffington Post, the impact of the Wikileaks information is only being discussed now, after the verdict, because the judge in the case didn't believe the information was relevant either way to whether Manning broke the law or not. Manning, who was acquitted of "aiding the enemy" but convicted on 19 other charges, faces a maximum sentence of 136 years. But today wasn't a particularly great day for the government's intended goal of securing that sentence.
This post has been updated with additional information.