Bradley Manning Court-Martial Begins (Video)
On Monday, the military court-martial began for Bradley Manning for providing highly-sensitive material to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S.
U.S. Army Pfc. Manning’s attorney David Coombs said in his opening statement that the soldier on trial had good intentions and thought he could make the world a better place.
The 25-year-old former intelligence analyst is accused of sending 700,000 U.S. documents and at least one video to a drop box in cyberspace belonging to the WikiLeaks. Manning faces life in prison if convicted.
It’s the most high-profile case for an administration that has come under criticism for its crackdown on whistleblowers. The six whistleblower prosecutions since Obama took office are more than in all other presidencies combined.
Prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow said Manning dumped classified documents on to the Internet and into the enemy hands: “This is a case of about what happens when arrogance meets access to sensitive information.”
Manning’s supporters hail him as a whistleblowing hero and a political prisoner. His opponents say he is a traitor who endangered lives and national security.
20 plus Manning supporters demonstrated outside the visitor gate at Fort Meade where the trail began. They waved signs in the rain, reading “free Bradley Manning” and “protect the truth” while chanting “What do want? Free Bradley. When do we want it? Now.”
In February, Manning pleaded guilty to reduced charges and told military judge Army Col. Denise Lind that he leaked the material to expose the American military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The judge accepted his guilty plea for a lesser version of one count, involving a single diplomatic cable summarizing U.S. embassy discussions with Icelandic officials. But the prosecutors still moved forward with a court-martial on charges, including violations of the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Manning admitted sending WikiLeaks unclassified video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack that killed civilians, including a Reuters photographer. WikiLeaks began publishing additional information in 2010 such as documented complaints of Iraqi detainee abuses, U.S. tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and America’s weak support for the government of Tunisia .
The release of the cables and video were an embarrassment for the U.S. and its allies. The Obama administration claimed 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.
Judge Lind ruled the extent of any damage irrelevant and the defense attorney David Coombs contended that it was minimal. Because much of the evidence is classified, large portions of the trial are likely to be closed to reporters and the public.
Whistleblower’s supporters include documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, musician Graham Nash, actor John Cusack and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg.
Video Credit: Al Jazeera, title “US soldier goes on trial over security leaks”