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Accused leaker Bradley Manning had 'evil intent,' prosecutors say in closing arguments

Closing arguments in court martial of soldier at center of WikiLeaks scandal. NBC's Jennifer Johnson reports.

FORT MEADE, Md. -- In a closing argument that ran almost five hours Thursday, prosecutors portrayed Pfc. Bradley Manning as a man with “evil intent” when he leaked more than 700,000 documents to Wikileaks.

Army Prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein took aim at the defense's portrait of Manning as a troubled individual who leaked out of humanitarian concern. "He was not a humanist. He was a hacker," Fein asserted. "He was not a troubled soul. He was not a whistle blower. He was a traitor."

During the five-hour argument in the court-martial at Fort Meade, Fein painted a picture of Manning as a young man who was interested in making a name for himself and who was obsessed with leaking classified information, calling him "calculating" and "self-interested."

The prosecution recapped evidence not only that Manning received Army training about the dangers of releasing classified information and how it could help the enemy, but that Manning even gave a presentation explaining these very ideas to his fellow soldiers.

Fein reminded the court that Manning knew about al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups, including how they mine for information and recruit others. He said that Manning was trained about how terrorists use the Internet "in their fight against the United States." While discussing Manning's release of Iraq and Afghanistan reports to Wikileaks, Fein advanced the prosecution's case that Manning knowingly aided the enemy, noting, "Osama Bin Laden asked for that information and received it."

Fein said Manning gathered information specifically to give it to Wikileaks, and argued that the government has presented information that makes it "obvious that Manning pulled as much information as possible to please Julian Assange," adding that the Wikileaks founder "had found the right insider" in Manning.

The prosecution showed that Manning started to download information "soon after he arrived in theater" in Iraq in 2009, beginning less than two weeks after he was granted access to the secure server.

Patrick Semansky / AP file

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted to a security vehicle outside a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Thursday, July 18, 2013, after a court martial hearing.

Fein recounted prosecution evidence that Manning knew that the U.S. government assessed Wikileaks as a possible threat to U.S. national security, that Manning knew who Julian Assange was, and that he knew that the enemy used Wikileaks as a resource.

Fein said that Manning knew that Wikileaks would make the information available to the world, but he sent it anyway, along with a "selfie" photo and the message, "Have a good day."

Manning was not a naïve soldier impacted by one event, Fein argued, saying that he was a man who sought to take advantage of classified systems and was actively searching out information that Wikileaks wanted.

Fein pointed out that Manning most likely couldn't even watch video of a 2009 airstrike in Granai, Afghanistan, that he attempted to leak to Wikileaks – Fein noted a January 2010 Wikileaks tweet that asked for help decrypting the video of the attack, which is thought to have killed dozens of civilians. Fein said the failure to decrypt that video only fueled Manning's desire to then release video of a 2007 Apache helicopter airstrike in Iraq. Fein also described the high technical expertise required for Manning to gather 250,000 Department of State cables and to export a list of 74,000 names and emails of U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

The defense will present its closing argument when the trial continues at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Fort Meade.