Prosecutors say a 25-year-old Army private accused of aiding the nation's enemies through the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history "craved" notoriety.
The defense on Monday painted Pfc. Bradley Manning as "naive but good-intentioned."
So began the first day of the former intelligence analyst's court-martial at Fort Meade in Maryland. It could be the beginning of the end of a saga that began three years ago when thousands of classified Afghanistan and Iraq war documents appeared on WikiLeaks.com.
Some of the U.S. documents that appeared on WikiLeaks were shared and then analyzed and reported on by major news outlets such as The New York Times, the UK newspaper the Guardian and Germany's der Spiegel.
Though WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, has grabbed much of the international media spotlight since that time, Manning's trial has fanned debate. Is he a hero or a traitor?
In February, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges he faced and could be sentenced to two decades in prison on those charges.
But he has not admitted to the most serious count -- aiding the enemies of the United States. If convicted on that count, he could go to prison for life.
In an hourlong opening statement Monday, prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow said Manning had access and incentive to provide information to the enemy, including information later found in Osama bin Laden's hideout.
He said the government will provide evidence that material al Qaeda operators had delivered to bin Laden can be traced to Manning's illicit downloading and transmission to WikiLeaks.
Morrow also said Manning helped WikiLeaks edit the cockpit video from a U.S. helicopter gunship attack that killed about a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters photojournalists, in 2007. An Army aviator will testify how the video can be useful to adversaries, Morrow said.
The video showed Reuters photographer Saeed Chmagh had survived an initial strafing by the gunship, but he apparently died when the fliers opened fire on people attempting to get him off the sidewalk where he lay. A U.S. investigation into the attack found that the crew mistook the journalists' cameras for weapons while seeking out insurgents who had been firing at American troops in the area.
Morrow said disclosures such as the video and other documents WikiLeaks released represented "potentially actionable information for targeting U.S. forces." And he said Manning, who appeared in court in his full-dress uniform, "used his military training to gain the notoriety he craved."
The prosecutor showed slides as part of his statement. The first slide was said to be a quote from a message Manning once posted, using the instant message handle "bradass87."
"If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?" it read.
That is purportedly part of a string of instant messages that a person -- alleged to be Manning -- sent to ex-hacker Adrian Lamo. Manning, who was based in Iraq, allegedly instant-messaged Lamo and, over a period of days, said that he had accessed documents.
Lamo has said he reported Manning to authorities.
Prosecutors also said Monday that they plan to call forensic experts who recovered chat logs from computers, purported conversations between Manning and Assange, that will allegedly show how they worked together.
The government's case hopes to convince the military judge that Manning, an intelligence analyst, "systematically harvested 700,000 government documents, and attempted to hide what he was doing."
Manning's supporters have adopted the phrase: "I am Bradley Manning."