WIKILEAKS SUSPECT DEFERS PLEA CHARGED WITH AIDING THE ENEMY

The Washington Times on February 23, 2012, reported that the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking thousands of classified documents was formally charged on the 23rd with aiding the enemy, but he deferred entering a plea. Excerpts below:

Observers said the move might be a sign his lawyers were negotiating a deal involving a guilty plea to lesser or fewer offenses.

Pfc. Bradley E. Manning spoke only briefly during the court-martial proceedings in a Fort Meade, Md., military courtroom. He told the judge, Col. Denise Lind, that he understood the 22 charges against him, including aiding the enemy and violations of the Espionage Act.

If convicted, Pfc. Manning could face life imprisonment, demotion and a dishonorable discharge.

Aiding the enemy carries a maximum sentence of death, but prosecutors have said they will not seek capital punishment in this case.

Col. Lind did not set a date for the trial but said there would be a hearing on several legal issues in the trial next month.

Pfc. Manning is accused of providing the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with two databases of military field reports – one from Iraq, one from Afghanistan – and a database of State Department cables to and from embassies around the world. The security breach is the largest leak of secret documents ever.

Pfc. Manning also is charged with giving WikiLeaks a video showing a strike by U.S. helicopters on a group of men in Baghdad that also killed a Reuters photographer and injured two children.

In a preliminary hearing in December, prosecutors presented excerpts of online chats found on Pfc. Manning’s personal computer that allegedly showed collaboration between him and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

•This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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