On Monday, US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning faces a general court martial on 21 charges related to leaking US government information to Wikileaks.
Manning has admitted to leaking the material, but his defence team will argue that he’s a whistleblower who exposed the moral failure of US foreign policy.
Manning has opted to have US Army Colonel Judge Denise Lind decide his fate rather than a jury.
The trial is expected to last 3 months. At a fundraiser last December, Manning’s lead defence attorney David Coombs said, “we fought at every turn, at every opportunity, and we fought to ensure Brad got a fair trial.”
Manning served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009. There he downloaded 700,000 documents including intelligence reports, diplomatic cables and videos from the computer system used to transmit classified information. The material spans the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo detainee information, and classified diplomatic exchanges.
While on leave in January 2010, Manning decided to give the material to Wikileaks.
In February, Manning pleaded not guilty to 12 of the charges, including the most serious one - aiding the enemy. If convicted, Manning could spend the rest of his life in jail.
Manning pled guilty to lesser charges on 10 counts that involved the downloading and transmitting the material to Wikileaks.
When he entered the plea, Manning told the court, “I knew I was breaking the rules and not going by regulations.”
The government has accepted only one of the guilty pleas Manning entered.
US government officials have said the disclosures damaged national security and risked the safety of American diplomats.
Damage assessments from several government agencies will be introduced as evidence.
So will evidence collected at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, including a letter from Osama bin Laden to a member of al-Qaeda requesting Wikileaks material and information obtained from the website.
The judge has ruled the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Manning concluded or should have concluded the material could be used for the injury of the United States or help a foreign nation.
Judge Lind has indicated she does not want the trial to turn into a debate about foreign policy.
She has said she will allow limited evidence on the potential damage of the leaks. And the defense may also provide rebuttal evidence.
Speaking on “The Stream” on May 30th Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks said, “There has not been a single allegation by any government … that Wikileaks has caused loss of life to even a single person.”??
The government has indicated it may call 150 witnesses. The 28 witnesses they want to question in classified session are mostly military officers and diplomats. ?
Only a few defence witness names are known, and all are advocates for open government. ???:
In the wake of Wikileaks, the government ordered a review of how classified information is handled. And the Obama administration has cracked down on leaks.
The government said during the pretrial phase that they’d be prosecuting Manning if he’d sent the material to the New York Times instead of Wikileaks.
David Laufman, a defence attorney who previously prosecuted national security cases says, “Manning’s case is the 21st century variant of cases that go back to the founding of the Republic when a dissenting member of the military or government decided to go rogue to appoint themselves the arbiter of what information ought to be in the hands of someone else.”