Bradley Manning Trial Starts: What To Expect In Wikileaks Case In Which Ex-Army Intelligence Soldier Faces Life In Prison

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is already facing the prospect of up to 16 years prison for leaking information to Wikileaks, but now he is on trial on charges of aiding the enemy that can put him in prison for the rest of his life.

Since he was arrested three years ago, Manning, 25, who was in charge of transferring classified messages, has become a controversial figure. The U.S. government views him as a traitor for leaking classified memos and cables to Wikileaks, while supporters say the Army soldier is a whistleblower who brought accountability to the government.

What To Expect

The trial (technically it’s a court-martial) gets underway Monday in Fort Meade, Md. Manning chose to have his court-martial decided by a judge instead of a jury.

While there is great public interest in the trial, about 30 percent of the proceedings are expected to be conducted out of public view because of the amount of classified evidence involved in the case, according to the Associated Press.

About 140 witnesses are expected to be called during the trial; half of them will be testifying about classified information.

Arguments

In arguing that Manning aided the enemy by sending the classified material to Wikileaks, the government will attempt to persuade the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, that Manning’s actions put the country in danger. As part of the argument, the government is expected to call a member of Navy SEAL Team Six -- the unit that killed Osama bin Laden during a successful raid of the al Qaeda mastermind’s Pakistani compound -- as a witness. That witness is expected to testify that bin Laden viewed some of the classified material sent by Manning to Wikileaks.

But Manning maintains that he didn’t leak the classified information to the anti-secrecy website in order to aid the enemy. He says he did so to shine a light on abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he worked as an intelligence analyst.

The government is expected to counter that Manning's motivation is not important; regardless of his motive, the documents landed in the hands of terrorists, military lawyers representing the U.S. will say.

Since Manning Pleaded Guilty, Why Is He On Trial?

Manning’s 2012 guilty plea was on lesser charges that will put him behind bars for as many as 16 years. The government also charged him with the more serious crime of aiding the enemy. If Lind finds Manning guilty in the case starting Monday, Manning will spend the rest of his life in prison. 

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