Bradley Manning court-martial starts: key points in the WikiLeaks case (+video)
Pfc. Bradley Manning, whose trial begins Monday, is accused of passing more than 700,000 government and military documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The court-martial of US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning for the largest leak of classified documents in US history will hinge on whether he aided the enemy and violated the 1917 Espionage Act – charges that some legal analysts say the Obama administration could have trouble proving.Skip to next paragraph
Chelsea Sheasley is the Monitor's Asia Editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine.
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Manning, whose trial begins Monday, is accused of passing more than 700,000 government and military documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. The polarizing figure, called a whistle-blowing hero by supporters and traitor by opponents, has been in detention since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.
Manning faces more than 20 charges, including violating the Espionage Act and a military charge of aiding the enemy. If convicted, he could be sentenced to prison for life without parole.
In February during pretrial hearings, Manning admitted to 10 charges. He told military judge Army Col. Denise Lind he leaked the material to expose the American military's "blood lust" and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he did not believe the information would harm the United States and he wanted to start a debate on the role of the military and foreign policy.
The judge accepted his guilty plea to reduced charges for those charges, but prosecutors did not and moved forward with a court-martial.
Manning chose to have his court-martial heard by a judge instead of a jury. It is expected to run all summer. The case is the most high profile in a string of leak prosecutions by the Obama administration, which has come under criticism for its crackdown on leakers. The six prosecutions since Barack Obama took office is more than in all other presidencies combined.
The government’s decision to proceed with the two most serious charges even after Manning admitted guilt took some legal analysts by surprise.
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, told The Washington Post that Manning’s leaks were “reckless” and “a data dump.” But “he is not an enemy of the state” and putting him behind bars for life “is overreaching,” she said.