Soldier faces court-martial over WikiLeaks secrets

A US army intelligence analyst accused of the biggest leak of classified information in American history is to face a court-martial.

Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with passing thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks, is to stand trial after the Military District of Washington commander, Major-General Michael Linnington, referred all charges against him to a general court-martial.

The referral means that Manning, 24, who spent some of his childhood in Wales, where his mother lives, will stand trial for allegedly giving more than 700,000 secret US documents and classified combat video to the anti- secrecy website WikiLeaks for publication.

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The Oklahoma native faces 22 counts, including aiding the enemy – a charge which could carry life imprisonment. A judge yet to be appointed will set the trial date.

Defence lawyers say Manning was a troubled soldier whom the army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there from late 2009 to mid-2010.

At a preliminary hearing in December, military prosecutors produced evidence that Manning downloaded and electronically transferred to WikiLeaks nearly half a million sensitive battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, and video of a deadly 2007 US army helicopter attack that WikiLeaks shared with the world and dubbed “Collateral Murder”.

Manning’s lawyers said others had access to Manning’s workplace computers and that he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the US armed forces.

The defence also claims Manning’s apparent disregard for security rules during training in the US and his increasingly violent outbursts after deployment were red flags that should have prevented him from having been given access to classified material.

His lawyers also contend that the material WikiLeaks published did little or no harm to US national security.

In the December hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, prosecutors also presented excerpts of online chats found on Manning’s personal computer that allegedly document collaboration between him and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Government prosecutors in northern Virginia are investigating Assange and others for allegedly facilitating the disclosures.