FORT MEADE: US Army investigators presented evidence for the first time Monday directly linking the US soldier accused of spilling secrets to WikiLeaks to the founder of the site, Julian Assange.
Testifying at a hearing to determine if US Army Private Bradley Manning should face a court-martial, the investigators said contact information for Assange was found on a computer hard drive belonging to Manning.
The digital forensics experts also said they had found evidence of online chats between Manning and a computer user with the screen name "Julian Assange."
In addition, they said they recovered State Department cables, US military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and other classified material from Manning's computers and storage devices.
The testimony, which came on the fourth day of the hearing being held at this sprawling army base, was the most compelling government evidence yet linking Manning to one of the most serious intelligence breaches in US history.
Manning, who turned 24 on Saturday, could face life in prison if convicted of "aiding the enemy," the most serious of the 22 charges he is facing.
Mark Johnson, a private contractor who works for the US Army's Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU), said a computer hard drive obtained from Manning had contact information for Assange, the Australian-born WikiLeaks founder.
US Army prosecutors showed a screenshot of a message said to be taken from a file on the drive. "You can currently reach our investigations editor directly in Iceland - 354 862 3481 - 24 hour service - Ask for Julian Assange," it said.
The investigators also said they had recovered online chats between Manning and a user by the name "Julian Assange" during which WikiLeaks was discussed.
Assange, who is in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges, has consistently denied knowing the source of the material received by his site but has expressed support for Manning.