After a global outcry about his prosecution and alleged torture, whistleblower Bradley Manning (shown), an Army intelligence officer accused of “aiding the enemy” by leaking hundreds of thousands of U.S. government documents exposing war crimes and countless dubious diplomatic dealings to WikiLeaks, is finally on trial this week. The secretive court-martial proceeding, widely criticized as a show trial with a predetermined outcome, began Monday and is expected to run for around three months.
If convicted, which would supposedly require prosecutors to show that Manning knew the leaked documents would be seen by enemies of the U.S. government, the defendant could spend life in military prison. The penalty could have included death, but authorities promised not to seek capital punishment amid global outrage against prosecuting somebody who tried to expose government crimes. Manning and his attorney decided that the trial should take place before a military judge rather than a full panel.
The young whistleblower, who has attracted legions of supporters to his cause despite drawing the wrath of the Obama administration, defended his actions in a February statement to the court. “I believed that if the public, especially the American public, had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general, as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Manning said.
Commenting about the estimated 250,000 secret diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department that he sent to WikiLeaks, Manning also said it was important for the public to know what its government was doing. According to his statement, the cables “documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity.” Indeed, as The New American has reported, the documents revealed everything from U.S. authorities’ unlawful spying and lying to bribing and bullying of foreign governments.
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Photo of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning being escorted out of a courthouse in Ft. Meade, Maryland June 5: AP Images