The court-martial of Army PFC Bradley Manning, accused of one of the biggest security leaks in U.S. history, began this week. The 25-year-old faces charges he aided U.S. enemies, which could earn him life in prison if he’s found guilty.
Manning, who pleaded guilty to 10 of 22 charges against him, admitted to leaking sensitive, classified documents to WikiLeaks, an online website that allows people to leak information to the media. He received 20 years in jail on those charges.
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But prosecutors contend U.S. enemies — specifically al-Qaida operatives — used the information on WikiLeaks against the country, and brought Manning to trial on those more serious charges
In opening statements Monday in Ford Meade, Md., the prosecutor said Manning, a former intelligence officer, sought notoriety and, according to a CNN report, posted a message online once that said, “If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?”
The defense called the young private naïve but good-intentioned. Manning has been hailed as both a hero and a traitor since his arrest three years ago. At a February hearing, Manning read a statement saying that he leaked the information to start a public debate on U.S. wars, and that none of the information would hurt the United States.
Protesters claiming Manning’s innocence rallied outside the trial, carrying signs offering sentiments like, “Release Bradley Manning.”
Capt. Joe Morrow gave an hourlong opening statement for the prosecution. He said Manning began leaking classified material almost as soon as he arrived at the Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq in 2009. According to a Washington Post article, Morrow said Osama bin Laden received a copy of U.S. military logs of the Afghanistan war
; Manning has admitted to providing those war logs to WikiLeaks.
Much of the trial is expected to be closed to the media and the public because of the classified information being discussed. It is expected to last throughout the summer.
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