Soldier accused of massive Wikileaks leak goes on trial today
Bradley Manning goes on trial today more than three years after he was arrested in Iraq and charged in the biggest leak of classified information in US history.
The army private has admitted to sending troves of material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and pleaded guilty to charges that would send him to prison for up to 20 years.
The US military and the Obama administration were not satisfied, though, and pursued a charge of aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence. The trial on that most serious charge and 20 other offences begins on Monday for the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst from Oklahoma.
It is the most high-profile case for an administration that has come under criticism for its crackdown on leakers. The six prosecutions since Barack Obama took office is more than in all other presidencies combined.
Manning chose to have his court-martial heard by a judge instead of a jury. It is expected to run all summer at Ford Meade, Maryland.
In February, Manning told military judge Army Colonel Denise Lind that he leaked the material to expose the American military's "bloodlust" and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he did not believe the information would harm the US and he wanted to start a debate on the role of the military and foreign policy.
The judge accepted his guilty plea to reduced charges for about half of the alleged offences, but prosecutors did not and moved forward with a court-martial on charges including violations of the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Manning's supporters hail him as a whistle-blowing hero and a political prisoner. Others view him as a traitor. US officials have said the more than 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables sent to WikiLeaks endangered lives and national security.
The release of the cables and video embarrassed the US and its allies. The Obama administration has said it threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America's relations with other governments.
Much of the evidence is classified, which means large portions of the trial are likely to be closed to reporters and the public.