Private Bradley Manning is accused of 'aiding the enemy'
Fort Meade – Arabstoday
Osama bin Laden reportedly handled some of the classified cables Private Bradley Manning is accused of passing to media whistleblowing organisation WikiLeaks, US military prosecutors told an Army judge.
The al-Qaeda leader, who US Navy Seals killed in Abbottabad in Pakistan in 2011, requested and received the military reports and State Department cables from another al-Qaeda member, after Manning allegedly provided them to Wikileaks, prosecutor Captain Joe Morrow claimed during a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland.
He and other prosecutors said they planned to introduce evidence proving this, as well as logs of online chats between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from February 2010, including one suggesting the two men were "laughing" about a New York Times article.
The article in question, from March 17 2010, reported the Pentagon added WikiLeaks to its list of enemies threatening US national security -- alongside al-Qaeda, among others.
Manning, aged 25, faces 22 charges for allegedly leaking classified information to WikiLeaks while he was a low-level intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.
That information cache included some 260,000 diplomatic cables, more than 90,000 intelligence reports on the war in Afghanistan, field reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Washington assessments of Guantanamo Bay detainees as well as a video of a US helicopter gunship killing two Western journalists in Iraq, which created international outcry when it was first released.
The charges against him include violating the 1917 Espionage Act and "aiding the enemy," which is a capital offence. Prosecutors have claimed they would not seek the death penalty, but if convicted on all charges, Manning would face life imprisonment without parole.
Colonel Denise Lind, the judge presiding over the pretrial hearing, said Manning's trial, scheduled to begin March 6, would now be postponed until at least June 3 to allow for consideration of classified information that may be used as evidence.
The trial is expected to take about six weeks.
Seeking a lower sentence, Manning's attorneys said their client would be willing to admit to a list of crimes with a total maximum sentence of 20 years, the Times reported on Thursday.
If the judge finds the plea legal, prosecutors can go along with it or move ahead with the trial.