Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Into the Hands of the Enemy' Military Trial Begins for Army Private in Wikileaks Scandal

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Into the Hands of the Enemy' Military Trial Begins for Army Private in Wikileaks Scandal

Article excerpt

FORT MEADE, Md. -- A military prosecutor told a judge Monday that Pfc. Bradley Manning was no ordinary leaker, as the court-martial opened for the former Army intelligence analyst who has confessed to being the source for vast archives of secret military and diplomatic documents made public by WikiLeaks.

"This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy -- material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk," said the prosecutor, Army Capt. Joe Morrow.

But a defense lawyer for Pvt. Manning told the judge that his client had been "young, naive but good-intentioned," and that he had, in fact, tried to make sure that the several hundred thousand documents he released would not cause harm.

"He was selective," defense attorney David Coombs said. "He had access to literally hundreds of millions of documents as an all- source analyst, and these were the documents that he released. And he released these documents because he was hoping to make the world a better place."

The dueling portrayals underscored the oddity at the heart of the trial, which is expected to last as long as 12 weeks.

There is no doubt that Pvt. Manning did most of what he is accused is doing, and he has already pleaded guilty to 10 charges for that conduct, for which he could be sentenced to as much as 20 years.

But his plea was not part of any deal with the government, and prosecutors are moving forward with the trial because they hope to convict him of a far more serious set of charges, including violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy, that could result in a life sentence.

The government's decision not to accept a plea deal with the young private and instead to pursue life imprisonment is just one piece of the aggressive tactics the Obama administration has used in its pursuit of leakers. …

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