FORT MEADE, Md. — The young Army intelligence specialist accused of passing government secrets spent his 24th birthday in court Saturday as his lawyers argued his status as a gay soldier before the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" played an important role in his actions.
Lawyers for Pfc. Bradley Manning began laying out a defense to show that his struggles as a gay soldier in an environment hostile to homosexuality contributed to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material.
Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive items to the antisecrecy 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.
The Obama administration says the released information has threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America's relations with other governments. Manning's lawyers counter that much of the information that was classified by the Pentagon posed no risk.
If convicted, Manning could face life in prison as a traitor.
The basis for the charges Manning faces is transcripts of online chats with a confidant-turned-government-informant in which Manning allegedly confessed his ties to WikiLeaks and also revealed he is gay.
On Friday, an Army appeals court rejected a defense effort to have the presiding officer, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, recused because of alleged bias.