U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning (photo) was formally charged on Thursday under the Espionage Act (18 USC Chapter 37) with 22 crimes, including aiding the enemy. In what is described as “the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history,” Manning is accused of passing over 700,000 documents and video clips to WikiLeaks, the widely known website devoted to exposing government corruption throughout the world.
At the arraignment presided over by Colonel Denise Lind at Fort Meade, Maryland, Manning refused to enter a plea. He also put off the decision of whether he prefers to a jury or a bench trial (in the latter, guilt or innocence would be determined by a judge alone).
If convicted of the charge of giving aid to the enemy, Manning could face life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for the other charges he faces is 150 years combined.A trial date has not been scheduled. Manning’s defense team avers that their client was unwell (“troubled”) and that he was not competent to have been allowed access to classified information.
Private Manning, 24, from Crescent, Oklahoma, has been detained since he was arrested on May 29, 2010 while on deployment with the 10th Mountain Division in Iraq. While on duty near Baghdad, Manning had access to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. SIPRNET is the network used by the United States government to transmit classified information.
Manning’s arrest came as the result of information provided to the FBI by a computer hacker named Adrian Lamo. Lamo told agents that during an online chat in May 2010, Manning claimed to have downloaded classified information from SIPRNet and sent it to WikiLeaks.
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Photo of Bradley Manning: AP Images