Trial Witness for Bradley Manning WikiLeaks Case Holds Ill-Advised AMA on Reddit

A key witness in the case against WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning appeared on the link-sharing site reddit today to answer questions from the public regarding the upcoming trial.

Former Army private Bradley Manning faces a life sentence in prison for leaking a reported hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

His online correspondence with Zachary Antolak, who now goes by the name Lauren McNamara, is being used as evidence in the case. Manning’s defense lawyers have called on McNamara to provide her testimony in court.

She’s taken it upon herself to give her testimony online.

In an open invitation to reddit users to ask her anything, McNamara wrote:

I am Lauren McNamara and I’m scheduled to testify at the trial of Private Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking diplomatic cables and other classified documents to Wikileaks. AMA

Hi. In 2009, I had a series of online chats with Manning after he found me through my YouTube channel. This was all prior to his alleged leaks (background on Manning here). This has become of some relevance now that his court martial is coming up – it was first delayed until March, and now until June. This week, his defense informed me that I’d been approved as a witness, and they believe that my testimony about our chats can show that he didn’t intend to aid the enemy. This is the charge that could lead to a life sentence without parole for him (details on the charges here), so they obviously have an interest in countering it.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian and Alexa O’Brien, journalists at Manning’s current pre-trial hearings, reported this week that I’d be called as a witness, and Kevin Gosztola confirmed it to me personally. Here’s a full copy of our chat logs and the associated New York Magazine story, which use my old name and online alias. I’ve also sent in proof of my identity, both old and new name, to the IAmA mods. I can also confirm this via my Twitter.

So, if you have any questions about my conversations with Manning, the ongoing case, my expected testimony, or anything else related to this, ask away. I’m not well-versed in every aspect of the case, but I’ll answer all your questions to the best of my ability.

Her Twitter conversation with Pilkington did, in fact, provide a useful click trail.

(McNamara, who also uses the alias Zinnia Jones, identifies as a woman and has legally changed her name to Lauren, which she discusses in detail on her YouTube channel.)

Redditors responded with a collective “face palm” when they saw that the witness would be talking about her case ahead of the trial and without any lawyers present. Out of more than 2,000 comments, a large number of them were warnings to McNamara that she could jeopardize the case with anything she said in the public comment thread. Wrote a user called mttwldngr, “When more than one person tells you this is a bad idea, then this is a bad idea.”

This didn’t stop McNamara. “Well, my entire history with Manning has already become completely out in the open over the past couple of years since he was arrested and charged,” she said. “And Adrian Lamo, who I believe is also expected to testify, has been writing entire columns about the case. I was never advised against it, and I’ve been speaking with the media for some time already without issue.”

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