A military judge has recommended that Pfc. Bradley Manning face a general court-martial for allegedly disclosing hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic files and reports to WikiLeaks, the Army announced Thursday.
Manning, 24, is charged with aiding the enemy, transmitting national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, and more than 20 other criminal charges. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in a military prison.
Lt. Col. Paul Alamanza heard evidence against Manning during a weeklong Article 32 hearing, a military proceeding similar to a civilian grand jury, last month at Ft. Meade, Md. According to an Army statement, Alamanza concluded that “the charges and specifications are in the proper form and that reasonable grounds exist to believe that the accused committed the offenses alleged.”
A more senior judge, Col. Carl R. Coffman, will now review Alamanza’s report and will decide whether to refer the case to a general court-martial.
The Army did not make the report public, but it was provided to Manning’s attorney, David E. Coombs, who could publish the report if he chooses.
Manning was a military intelligence analyst at a small base in Iraq and had a top-secret security clearance and access to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, which is used by parts of the U.S. government to transmit classified information.
He is the only person charged with unauthorized release of more than half a million classified U.S. military reports and diplomatic cables from around the globe, as well as a 2007 video of a deadly U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad, to the WikiLeaks website in May 2010.
Supporters see Manning as a whistle-blower who helped expose U.S. military misdeeds and energize protests against corrupt regimes. They argue that military prosecutors never produced evidence showing that the leaks harmed national security.
The materials were “improperly classified,” said Kevin Zeese, a legal adviser to the Bradley Manning Support Network.
“These charges contradict the administration’s own impact assessments which showed that these WikiLeaks revelations posed no threat to our national security,” Zeese said. “But since the Obama administration appears dead set on railroading Bradley Manning through their show trial, we can’t expect them to allow such critical evidence or testimony to be considered.”
-- Brian Bennett and Kim Geiger in Washington
Photo: Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, center, is escorted out of a courthouse in Ft. Meade, Md., in December. Credit: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press