More than three years after he was arrested in Iraq, an army private charged in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history will go on trial this week.
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning admitted to sending lots of classified material to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and pleaded guilty to charges that could keep him behind bars for up to 20 years. The U.S. military has decided to pursue a charge of aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.
Manning faces 20 other offenses. The 25-year-old former intelligence analyst from Oklahoma opted to have his court-martial heard by a judge instead of a jury. USA Today reported it is expected to last all summer.
The young man told military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, that he leaked the material to expose the American military's "bloodlust." Manning said he did not think the information would hurt the United States, and that he leaked it to WikiLeaks to help start a debate about the role of the military and foreign policy.
U.S. officials have said more than 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables sent to WikiLeaks endangered lives and national security.
In addition to aiding the enemy, Manning’s charges include violations of the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Some of the material Manning acquired and WikiLeaks released detailed America's weak support for the government of Tunisia — a revelation that some say helped to jumpstart the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring.
The release of the confidential materials embarrassed the United States and its allies. The Obama administration said it hurt America's relations with other governments. The exact amount of damage the classified releases caused has never been revealed and probably will not be during the trial.