FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — After more than three years in jail, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is on trial for leaking a massive amount of classified information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Here are some questions and answers about Manning’s court-martial.
Q: What did Manning do?
A: The 25-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., admitted he leaked hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and diplomatic cables in 2009 and 2010 while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad. Manning also said he leaked a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down a group of 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.
Q: What will the trial be like?
A: Manning chose to be tried by a military judge, not a jury. Army Col. Denise Lind will preside over the trial and recommend a sentence, which could be reduced by the Military District of Washington commander who ordered the court-martial. The trial at Fort George G. Meade, an Army post south of Baltimore, is expected to take all summer and include more than 100 witnesses.
Significant portions of the trial won’t be open to reporters and the public because the witnesses will testify about classified information. There are three Army lawyers prosecuting the case, headed by Maj. Ashden Fein. Manning’s defense team is headed by an Army reserve officer in private practice, David Coombs, and includes two lawyers currently serving in the Army.
Q: What kind of punishment would Manning face if convicted?
A: Army lawyers initially brought 22 charges against Manning, including the most serious: aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence. But to prove the charge, prosecutors must show Manning knew the material would be seen by members of al-Qaida. Prosecutors said during opening arguments they would present evidence that Osama bin Laden asked for and received material WikiLeaks published.
Manning pleaded guilty in February to lesser versions of nine offenses alleging violations of federal espionage and computer fraud laws, and to one count alleging violation of a military regulation prohibiting wrongful storage of classified information. The combined maximum prison term for those offenses is 20 years.
The judge accepted his guilty plea, but prosecutors initially did not. Prosecutors later accepted Manning’s guilty plea for a lesser version of one count, involving a single diplomatic cable summarizing U.S. embassy discussions with Icelandic officials about the country’s financial troubles.
Q: Why did he do it?
A: Manning said in February he leaked the material to expose the American military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he did not believe the information would harm the U.S. and he wanted to start a debate on the role of the military and foreign policy.
At the same time, defense lawyers have portrayed Manning as a troubled young soldier who was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. military.
Q: What happened as a result of the leak?
A: The release of the cables and video embarrassed the U.S. and its allies. The Obama administration has said it threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America’s relations with other governments, but the specific amount of damage hasn’t been publicly revealed and probably won’t be during the trial because the judge ruled it was irrelevant. Manning’s attorney said the damage was minimal.