Computer files 'link Manning to Assange'

Witness says chat logs prove contact with a person using WikiLeaks founder's name

US prosecutors claim to have found evidence of direct communication between the army intelligence analyst blamed for the biggest leak of secrets in the US history and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Private Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking thousands of US diplomatic cables to the whistle-blowing website, yesterday entered the forth day in an army hearing to determine whether he will face court-martial.

A witness for the prosecution at the hearing claimed to have found chat logs between 24-year-old Private Manning and an online chat user identified on Manning's computer as Julian Assange.

Few details were revealed about what was said; but if proven, the development could be a significant factor in any possible case against Mr Assange.

Publishing classified information is not generally considered a crime in the US, but if the federal grand jury that is currently investigating Mr Assange finds that he directed Private Manning, prosecutors might find it easier to build a case against him.

Testifying at the hearing yesterday, digital-crimes investigator David Shaver said he also found a letter accompanying some of the data Private Manning allegedly sent to WikiLeaks.

In the letter, Private Manning declared that he was changing history by publishing the information.

"This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st-century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day," the file read.

The text, along with almost 500,000 classified battlefield reports, was on a data card that investigators found among Manning's belongings, according to Mr Shaver.

In a back-and-forth on the digital case against the soldier, the prosecution said evidence showed Private Manning sent nearly 500,000 classified battlefield reports to the anti-secrecy website and bragged to someone else about leaking a video of a 2007 helicopter attack to WikiLeaks.

Investigators said in one May 2010 exchange between Private Manning and a mathematician named Eric Schmiedl, Manning allegedly asked: "Are you familiar with WikiLeaks?"

"Yes, I am," Schmiedl wrote.

"I was the source of the July 12 2007 video from the Apache Weapons Team which killed the two journalists and injured two kids," Private Manning wrote, according to the prosecution.

Throughout the hearing, Private Manning's lawyers countered that others had access to his workplace computers and pressed Mr Shaver into conceding that some files in a batch of 10,000 State Department cables on Manning's computer didn't match documents published by WikiLeaks.

He said another 100,000 cables couldn't be matched to Private Manning's user profile. But it was unclear if the cross-examination damaged the prosecution's case in any way.

Private Manning's lawyers have yet to acknowledge or deny his responsibility for the leak of hundreds of thousands of US war and diplomatic cables, and a classified military video of an American helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 11 men.