Two witnesses for U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst accused of passing a trove of national security secrets to WikiLeaks, testified Wednesday that analysts listened to music CDs, watched videos and played games on their classified computers in Iraq.
Capt. Barclay Keay, who spent several weeks in charge of the intelligence unit where Manning worked, said he was surprised to see compact discs and other media inside the facility at Forward Operating Base Hammer, near Baghdad, where the analysts handled highly classified materials.
"I thought it was kind of odd," said Keay. But he didn't raise the issue with his superiors because "things were different" in a combat zone, he said.
Sgt. Daniel Padgett, who supervised Manning on the night shift, said there were few restrictions and no clear chain of command in the unit. "There could have been more oversight," he said.
Prosecutors say Manning used rewritable compact discs marked "Lady Gaga," as well as a variety of digital devices, to illegally copy hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic files from government servers. Many later were transferred to WikiLeaks and posted on its website.
Manning, who was arrested 19 months ago, has spent the past six days in an evidentiary hearing at Fort Meade that will determine whether he will face a military court martial. He is charged with 22 criminal counts, including aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act.
Throughout the proceedings, Manning has remained outwardly composed as witness after witness talked about his emotional problems, his difficulties as a gay soldier and his violent outbursts while still in the United States and during his tour of duty in Iraq from late 2009 to mid-2010.
Manning was part of a three-soldier skeleton crew working the night shift in a restricted area with computers connected to the military's supposedly secure network for sharing classified information. But witnesses said soldiers routinely accessed music, movies and computer games over the network as well.
Manning's attorneys have emphasized the lax security and poor supervision in Manning's unit, as well as what witnesses called his volatile and erratic mental state.
Defense attorneys may be establishing a record to negotiate a plea bargain or petition for a lighter sentence if he is convicted, said Philip Cave, a retired Navy judge advocate who works in military courts as a civilian lawyer.
Lax security is a "mitigating factor, not a defense," Cave said. The alleged theft of classified material was not "the government's fault," he added.
Closing arguments are scheduled for today, and presiding officer Lt. Col. Paul Almanza said he is required to make his recommendation by Jan. 16 on whether sufficient evidence exists to convene a court-martial.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.