FORT MEADE, Md. – Dim fluorescent bulbs illuminated a spartan office and living quarters at a remote forward operating base in Iraq. The rooms appeared innocent enough, but prosecutors in the ongoing trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning claimed Monday that's where one of the greatest breaches of classified materials in U.S history took place.
The agents tasked with the initial investigation of where Manning lived and worked testified Monday about their deployment to Forward Operating Base Hammer on May 27, 2010. They flew gear in on helicopters to the base "in the middle of nowhere" following reports that the private first class had used his work and personal computers to mine classified data he reportedly sent to WikiLeaks.
Thomas Smith, a special agent with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, walked prosecuting attorneys through two pictures he took of the sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF, where Manning worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. The first agents on the scene who took photos as evidence had to hang blankets on the walls to cover classified charts pinned to the bare walls. Fewer than a dozen computer stations on simple tables and chairs lined the windowless room.
Manning's quarters in a converted container were equally spare. He shared the room with an Army specialist who says he almost never interacted with his reclusive brother-in-arms, who opted instead to spend his time either on the computer, smoking by himself or traveling to the base exchange.
"We kept our stuff on separate sides," testified Army Spec. Eric Baker during the first day of Manning's court martial here. He described the contents of Manning's side of the room, including CDs he would bring into the SCIF a few hundred yards away.
“I thought it was a little weird because he had an [Apple] iPod. I was a little confused,” said Baker, who was assigned to live with Manning because he was one of the only troops on base who did not have a roommate. “He said, ‘[The CDs are] for bringing music into the SCIF because he couldn’t bring his iPod in there.”
Defense lawyer David Coombs seized the opportunity to follow up on his opening remarks that morning to reinforce that Manning was a loner and did not have many friends on base. Baker confirmed during cross examination that he didn't have much in common with Manning, he didn't talk much and he didn't spend spare time with other troops, opting instead to spend time on his computer.
That seemed to be the main source of friendship he had there, Baker said.
The special agents seized two work computers during their May 2010 investigation, as well as a MacBook Pro, hard drive, and writeable CDs that prosecutors say contained some of the information Manning stole from the U.S. government.
Prosecutor Army Capt. Angel Overgaard, who questioned the investigators, drew particular attention to a CD with typed labeling reading "12 July 2007 Engagement Zone CZ." "Reuters FOIA Req" was also handwritten on it in ink.
Attorneys did not follow up on the relevance of the CD, though it is possibly related to the reported July 12, 2007, Apache strike that killed a Reuters reporter along with Iraqi civilians. The incident, which was included in both prosecution and defense opening remarks, was the target of a Freedom of Information Act request from Reuters news agency which was investigating the death of its reporter.