Trials & Litigation

Court-martial begins in WikiLeaks case for soldier Bradley Manning

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A military trial opened Monday at Fort Meade, Md., for a soldier accused of providing to WikiLeaks a massive trove of classified documents that some consider more momentous than the Pentagon Papers provided to the New York Times nearly 40 years ago concerning the Vietnam War.

Pfc. Bradley Manning is accused of transmitting some 700,000 classified documents, at least some of which concerned Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, to WikiLeaks. He opted to have a judge, rather than a jury, hear the court-martial, which concerns the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, the Associated Press reports.

“This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy—material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk,” said Army Capt. Joe Morrow, who is prosecuting the case.

But defense lawyer David Coombs portrayed Manning as young, naive and well-intentioned, the New York Times (reg. req.) reports. He contended that Manning “released these documents because he was hoping to make the world a better place.”

Because classified documents are at issue, much of the trial is expected to be closed to the public. It will likely last most of the summer.

Although Manning has previously pleaded guilty to reduced charges on nine counts and admitted sending material to WikiLeaks, he did so without a plea agreement from the U.S. military, which wants to pursue more serious charges, the AP notes.

The federal espionage and computer fraud laws to which he pleaded guilty, in addition to the violation of a military regulation concerning classified information storage, carry a maximum penalty of 20 years.

At issue in the military trial is whether he is guilty on approximately 10 more counts, alleging that he violated the 1917 Espionage Act and aided the enemy in violation of military law, the Christian Science Monitor explains.

If found guilty on those charges, he could be sentenced to life without parole.

ABC News, Fox News, the Guardian, and the Washington Post (reg. req.) also have stories.

See also: “Soldier Bradley Manning Charged with Aiding Enemy in WikiLeaks Case, May Get Life If Convicted” “Soldier pleads guilty to giving Wikileaks classified info but denies ‘aiding the enemy’” “Obama has worse record than Nixon on press freedoms, says Pentagon Papers lawyer”

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