The long-awaited trial of Bradley Manning is underway, and law enforcement will finally decide the fate of a soldier who leaked thousands of documents to WikiLeaks.
Manning pleaded guilty in February to downloading information and releasing it to the whistleblowing website, which composed 10 of the 22 charges against him, according to CBS. However, he didn’t acknowledge the other 12 that accuse him of aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act.
If convicted of the former, he could face up to 20 years in prison, USA Today reported, but the more serious charges against him could result in a life sentence.
WikiLeaks published the first of Manning’s documents in 2010, including diplomatic cables, Afghanistan war logs and footage of an airstrike in Baghdad that killed Reuters employees. The information detailed a military that tortured Iraqis and killed civilians. It also revealed information about US-Tunisia relations that some believe lit the spark of the Arab Spring.
Prosecutors believe some of the information ended up in the hands of Al Qaeda members, but Manning’s supporters maintain that he did a service to the country by fighting back against its war on transparency. Moreover, Manning said in February that he had no intention of harming the US and based his decision on the misconduct he saw in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides,” he said. “I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists.”
The soldier’s disinterest in aiding the enemy was seconded by Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker who took the witness stand on Tuesday. When questioned by the defense, Lamo said Manning never expressed any disloyalty to America.
And even though the connection between the two is still being investigated, Manning has support in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange published a statement on Monday condemning the trial and Manning’s treatment.
“The United States was, in theory, a nation of laws,” he said. But it is no longer a nation of laws for Bradley Manning.”
He goes on to describe this as a “show trial” and accused the US government of false justice.
“This is not justice; never could this be justice,” he continued. “The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity.”