When WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning enters a military courtroom in Ft. Meade on Friday he’ll face a military investigator bent on demonstrating that the young soldier committed grave violations of law by leaking hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive U.S. government documents.
After more than 18 months in pre-trial confinement, the 23-year-old former Army intelligence analyst will get his day in court at the so-called Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the evidence against him merits the case proceeding to a full court-martial. (Wired.com will be covering the hearing gavel-to-gavel.)
Likely included in the military’s case are a series of chat logs between Manning and ex-hacker Adrian Lamo, in which Manning allegedly confesses that, as an act of conscience, he gave WikiLeaks a trove of U.S. diplomatic cables, two large databases containing war reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, a cache of reports on prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay prison and a video of an Army attack that killed Iraqi civilians and two Reuters employees.
The logs, first reported by Wired.com when we broke the news of Manning’s arrest last year, suggest that the emotionally troubled soldier lacked a support system in the Army or personal life, and reached out to Lamo in search of a kindred spirit. “I thought I’d reach out to someone who would possibly understand,” he wrote, before confessing to being troubled by gender identity issues, and unloading details about a “mess I created that no-one knows about yet.”
“I can’t believe what I’m confessing to you :’(,” he wrote Lamo, as he described bringing a writable CD into the secure facility where he worked in Iraq and pretending to lip-sync to Lady Gaga music as he downloaded thousands of documents that he subsequently passed to WikiLeaks.
But instead of being the sympathetic ear Manning had hoped to find, Lamo turned the chat logs over to the authorities, saying later, “I wouldn’t have done this if lives weren’t in danger.” Authorities arrested Manning at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq in late May 2010.
Although the military has said it will not seek the death penalty — an option for the most serious accusation of “aiding the enemy” — Manning is now staring down a possible life sentence for 22 charges that include an Espionage Act violation, computer fraud and theft of public property and records. He’s also charged with causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing it would be accessible to the enemy.