Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of handing over a trove of classified military documents to WikiLeaks, is set to be tried for the capital offense of “aiding the enemy,” fraud, espionage, and theft.
A 10-day pretrial hearing wrapped up this month on the 22 charges he faces in the release of hundreds of thousands of pieces of classified material on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the document-sharing website in May 2010.
While his lawyers continue to try to get the charges thrown out, and military judge Col. Denise Lind weighs whether the pretrial time he served will count toward his sentencing, Manning faces life in prison and possibly the death sentence.
Decisions from the pretrial hearing are expected by the middle of January, the Daily Dot
reports. If the charges aren't dismissed, which experts say is highly unlikely, the trial will begin in March.
Manning has been praised by some as a liberator, a heroic whistleblower — he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and named The Guardian’s person of the year — while many others consider him a threat to national security for revealing sensitive information that surely found its way into the hands of the wrong people.
He has been held at the Quantico Marine Brig where he claimed he was subjected to unlawful conditions, allegedly "kept in a 6-by-8-foot cell, 23 hours a day, and allowed 20 minutes a day of recreation time," according to The Associated Press.
Though Manning is a key player in the freedom of information debate, there hasn’t been much reported on his pretrial hearing. In fact, The New York Times didn't send a reporter to cover it and has only published one story on the pretrial hearing, an AP story. Even the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, has criticized the publication’s coverage.
So here are the 10 important things you need to know to get up to speed on Manning and the upcoming trial:
He's accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010, according to The Daily Mail.
He's also accused of leaking a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men later found to have included a Reuters news photographer and his driver.
A major implication of the trial is that if Manning receives a harsh sentence, it could deter future attempts to disseminate sensitive information publicly. If he receives a lighter sentence, Americans might view it as a more serviceable act.
Manning has pleaded partially guilty to the charges. He admitted he leaked private information and documents to WikiLeaks, but not to the capital offense of "aiding the enemy." For the latter offense, he could face the death penalty or life in prison. A plea deal and an agreement with the government are not on the table, according to Mashable.
The video clip
The other troops accompanying Manning on the mission where he taped the helicopter gunning down people said they thought the video equipment Manning used were weapons. The Pentagon did not hold the other troops accountable and said they acted appropriately, The Daily Mail reports.
The evidence in the case has been censored frequently. Because the information released to WikiLeaks is classified and could affect the safety of military personnel, it cannot be reported upon. Some have criticized the censorship, calling it “overclassification.”
Along with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, Manning had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The winner, the European Union, was announced in October. Manning was one of 191 individuals and 43 organizations who were submitted to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for consideration.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has asserted Manning has been "tortured" in American prisons. He has also praised Manning, though he has been careful not to say whether Manning is guilty of the charges. Assange is currently in London at Ecuador's embassy, where he was granted political asylum. If he leaves the embassy he will be arrested and extradited to Sweden.
There have been claims that Manning was suicidal while at Quantico. Fox News reports that officials at the brig allegedly found a bed-sheet noose. He was issued scratchy, suicide-prevention bedding, and sometimes all his clothing, including his underwear, was removed from his cell, along with his glasses and reading material. He was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours and was under constant surveillance. Manning has denied claims that he planned to commit suicide, and his attorneys stressed that the restrictions were punishments.
Though Manning’s lawyers are fighting to get the charges thrown out, legal experts say it is unlikely Manning will get off the hook. However, there is a chance the time he already served could be weighed in his favor during the sentencing, experts say.
Last year, the public affairs department for the U.S. military monitored everything that was reported about Manning, including news and social media chatter, using a public relations web tool called Vocus. Mashable says a report obtained by Politico revealed that most of the coverage of Manning was "negative," but "the majority of the coverage about the pretrial hearing remains balanced and factual." The report found "1,045 social media conversations about the hearing."
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