Pfc. Bradley Manning has been formally charged with aiding the enemy as he stands accused of leaking thousands of classified documents that ultimately ended up on WikiLeaks.
If found guilty, Manning will likely spend the rest of his life in a military prison without the chance of parole.
According to the Guardian, a total of 22 charges have been leveled against the former army intelligence analyst including: aiding the enemy; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet; theft of public property or records; transmitting defense information; and fraud and related activity in connection with computers.
During the first day of his court martial, the 24-year-old Manning chose to defer a plea, while his defense attorney David Coombs moved to postpone a decision over whether the soldier would have his case heard by a military judge or jury. Nevertheless, Coombs asked for Manning’s trial to begin no later than June, as the soldier has been in military custody since May 25, 2010.
"If the government had its way, it would be over 800 days before the trial actually begins,” Coombs claimed.
Although it appears somewhat inevitable that Manning will be sentenced to life in prison, Coombs plans on launching an impassioned defense of the former intelligence analyst which is expected to focus on Manning’s emotional issues - which ultimately should have barred the soldier from accessing sensitive military networks. Coombs has also argued that the material published on WikiLeaks did little real harm to US national security.
Meanwhile, Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale, told the New York Times the Manning trial was "one of the most interesting military cases of the last 20 years." As Fidell notes, the case "comes at the intersection of advancing technology," making it possible to disseminate a truckload of classified data on the 'Net with just a click of a mouse.
"If it is the case that Bradley Manning is indeed the source of this and other Wikileaks materials, Manning would have single-handedly changed hundreds of thousands of people's lives for the better," Wikileaks said in a recent statement quoted by the BBC.
"This material has contributed to ending dictatorships in the Middle East, it has exposed torture and wrongdoing in all the corners of the world and it has held diplomatic bodies and politicians accountable for the words, deals and pacts held behind close doors."