FORT MEADE, Md. — After months of delay, the U.S. military is set to make its case for court-martialing Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of endangering national security by engineering the largest-ever leak of classified documents.
At stake for the government: deterring future leaks of potentially damaging secrets. For Manning: a possible life sentence.
His lawyer asserts that the documents' release did little actual harm.
The case has spawned an international movement in support of Manning, seen by anti-war activists as a hero who helped expose American mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. To others he is a villain, even a traitor, who betrayed his oath of loyalty by deliberately spilling his government's secrets.
Manning, who turns 24 Saturday, was to make his first public appearance today at the opening of his pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, Md. The secretive military base is, ironically, home to U.S. Cyber Command, the organization whose mission includes protecting computer networks like the one Manning allegedly breached by illegally downloading huge numbers of classified documents in Iraq.
He is suspected of giving them to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that last year began publishing the materials.
The hearing was expected to last through the weekend and possibly beyond.
It is intended to yield a recommendation to Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commander of the Military District of Washington, on whether Manning should be court-martialed.