Accused WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning goes to military court
Army Pvt. Bradley Manning is charged with providing thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. As his military court case begins, his lawyer will try to show that the Army ignored problems with an erratic young soldier.
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Not on trial but also in the spotlight are military security – specifically, how well the military secures its secrets in a combat zone – and the extent to which the Army should have foreseen problems with a private barely out of his teens who one superior officer had warned was “a mess of a child.”
As detailed by the Pentagon, Manning is charged with “aiding the enemy; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy; theft of public property or records; transmitting defense information; fraud and related activity in connection with computers; and for violating Army Regulations 25-2 ‘Information Assurance’ and 380-5 ‘Department of the Army Information Security Program.’ ” There are 22 charges in all.
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“Aiding the enemy” is a capital offense, but military officials say they will not seek the death penalty but rather life in prison without possibility of parole.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Manning’s Article 32 hearing Friday (expected to last about a week) is to determine whether he should be court martialed. The hearing will be held at Fort Meade, Md.
Manning’s civilian attorney is David Coombs, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves who spent 12 years on active duty in the judge advocate corps.
Mr. Coombs hopes to show that the Army did not adequately monitor Manning’s erratic behavior – at one point the bolt reportedly was removed from his weapon, making it inoperable – and that the leaked information may have been politically and diplomatically embarrassing but it wasn't all that harmful to national security.
That’s why Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on his list of requested witnesses. She has been quoted as saying that the leaked documents “did not represent significant consequences to foreign policy.”
Also on Coombs’s witness wish list is President Obama, the US commander in chief and Manning’s superior. Coombs will argue that Obama prejudiced the case when he said last year that Manning “broke the law.”
It is unlikely that either Secretary Clinton or Mr. Obama will testify. The government is opposing all requested defense witnesses except for the 10 witnesses also requested by the government.
Manning’s case has generated worldwide interest and in some cases protest – particularly for the many months he was held in solitary confinement. It’s the largest and most controversial case involving WikiLeaks, the self-styled whistle-blower website that released to several newspapers the hundreds of thousands of cables, videos, and other information allegedly provided by Manning.
Manning was a military analyst in Iraq where, despite his low rank, he had wide access to sensitive and classified information. Among other things, Manning allegedly downloaded and leaked video footage of an attack by a US Apache helicopter gunship that killed Iraqi civilians, including two employees of the Reuters news agency.
During the months when Manning worked with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Iraq, it was apparently easy for him to find, download, and copy sensitive military information. Writing in an online chat, he claims to have had “unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months.”