Bradley Manning, the young soldier who has been held in what many call inhumane conditions since May 2010 without charges, will be making his first appearance in military court today after more than a year and a half of detention.
Manning will be 24 years old tomorrow, and stands accused of “aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act ” by leaking classified documents to disclosure portal Wikileaks. Manning first initiated contact with the site in November of 2009, and is believed to be responsible for leaking the damaging “Collateral Murder” video, in which a dozen people were shot and killed by American troops- including two unarmed Reuters journalists. Before his arrest, Manning confided in the man who would later turn him in, Adrian Lamo, about his motivations for releasing data like the “Collateral Murder” clip. Manning said:
“At first glance it was just a bunch of guys getting shot up by a helicopter. No big deal… about two dozen more where that came from, right? But something struck me as odd with the van thing, and also the fact it was being stored in a JAG officer’s directory. So I looked into it.”
The case today is the start of something known as an Article 32 hearing, which lasts about a week and will determine whether charges against Bradley Manning will be dropped or will proceed to a court martial. When probed by Lamo about the “incredible… awful things” he’d seen in compiling the data he later leaked, Lamo probed Manning about why he’d chosen to leak the secrets for free when he could have made “bank” selling them to enemies of the state. Manning replied:
“…because it’s public data… it belongs in the public domain…”
Manning could be sentenced to life in prison.