FORT MEADE, Md. -- The Defense Department task force that scoured WikiLeaks' Iraq and Afghanistan war logs did not find any deaths of people identified in the leaked reports -- discovering only that the Taliban claimed credit for the death of one person not named in the massive cache of files.
That revelation came as the sentencing phase of WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning's court martial began on Wednesday, a day after he was convicted on charges that carry a maximum sentence of 132.5 years. The prosecution's first sentencing witness, a former U.S. Department of Defense official, spoke to one of the most hotly contested elements of Manning's legacy -- whether his leaks put any American intelligence sources at risk.
Ret. Brig. Gen. Robert Carr testified that his task force identified more than 900 Afghan names as potentially at risk in the 70,000-plus leaked files. But only a single death -- of someone not actually named in the logs -- was ever linked to WikiLeaks.
"As a result of the Afghan logs, I only know of one individual that was killed," Carr said. "The individual was an Afghan national. The Afghan national had a relationship with the United States government, and the Taliban came out publicly and said that they killed him as a result of him being associated with the information in these logs."
Defense lawyer Maj. Thomas Hurley immediately objected, asking Carr whether that person was actually identified by name in the war logs.
"The name was not there," Carr acknowledged. "The name of the individual that was killed was not in the disclosures."
Col. Denise Lind, the judge overseeing Manning's court martial, sustained the defense objection.
Carr also said he was not aware of any sources in Iraq who were killed because they were named in the war logs.
Carr's testimony may cast into question one of the major criticisms of Manning -- that his leaks put named U.S. informants at risk. He described a mad scramble inside the DOD in the wake of the leaks' release. Within 24 to 48 hours of the July 2010 release of Afghanistan battlefield reports, he was tasked by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates to create and lead a large group called the Information Review Task Force.
At the time, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange might have "the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family" on his hands.
But Carr's testimony on Wednesday indicated that the only evidence of that claim is from the Taliban.
Before sentencing began, Lind blocked both sides from presenting evidence of the actual harm resulting from Manning's disclosures, ruling that it was irrelevant to whether he broke the letter of the law. Now that the sentencing phase of his trial has begun, the prosecution is free to try to establish that Manning's leaks did damage. The defense, meanwhile, is trying to show that American interests and allies were not seriously hurt.
The defense and prosecution have repeatedly sparred over how deliberately Manning chose the 700,000 sensitive files he leaked, out of the millions he had access to. The defense has argued that none of the war logs Manning released were supposed to include the names of military human intelligence sources. But casual interlocutors -- an Afghan villager who chatted with an Army patrol -- were sometimes identified.
After Carr's testimony, Lind indicated that she didn't place much stock in his testimony about the alleged WikiLeaks-linked killing.
"Just for the record," she said, "I'm going to completely disregard any testimony about the Taliban killing somebody and tying it with the leak."