Bradley Manning, the man accused of making public sensitive military and diplomatic information in the US’ largest such leak and thus harming US national security, now faces a court-martial.
The US Army Military District of Washington announced on Friday that the US army has ordered a court-martial for Bradley Manning. Manning is charged with passing on over 700,000 classified documents and combat video to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks when serving as a low-ranking intelligence analyst. It was the largest leak of secret information in US history.
The presiding judge, who is yet to be appointed, will set a trial date.
Manning, 24, faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet and theft of public property.
While aiding the enemy is an offense that could carry the death penalty, the prosecution has said it intends to seek a maximum of life in prison for Manning.
At a preliminary hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, in December, military prosecutors presented evidence that Manning downloaded sensitive material, including battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, and transferred it to WikiLeaks. The evidence provided also showed that he had leaked diplomatic cables as well as a video of a 2007 army helicopter attack on civilians, which WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder” and made available to the public.
The prosecution also produced evidence of online chats from Manning's computer which allegedly prove collaboration between him and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is being investigated by US federal prosecutors for allegedly facilitating the disclosures.
His defense claimed Manning, as a serving homosexual at a time when being openly gay was not allowed in the US military, had been under emotional duress and should not have been granted access to such sensitive information.
The Bradley Manning Support Network issued a statement of Friday calling his prosecution “fundamentally unjust.”
“This administration owes all Americans an honest explanation for their extraordinary retaliation against Bradley Manning,” said Jeff Paterson, a lead organizer of the group.
sb/msh (AP, Reuters, dpa)