Bradley Manning used to be an intelligence analyst for the US army. Now, aged 25, he faces a lifetime in jail with no chance of parole.
Bradley faces 21 charges—all relating to his leaking of files about US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Wikileaks website.
His court martial began in Maryland on Monday of this week.
Bradley does not deny leaking the materials, which include 500,000 battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, he called the “War Logs”.
He was horrified at what he was seeing and reading about what the US was doing through his job.
He wanted to provoke public debate about US actions in the wars.
At a pre-trial hearing in February of this year he said, “I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the [Iraq and Afghan War Logs] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
One of the leaks was a clip of video footage of a US Apache helicopter crew killing 12 people, including two Reuters journalists in Baghdad in 2007.
One of the crew is heard referring to the casualities as “dead bastards”.
Bradley said, “The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team happened to have.”
He compared it to a child “torturing ants with a magnifying glass”.
Bradley is pleading not guilty to the most serious charge of “aiding the enemy”.
The prosecution claims that Bradley “knowingly gave intelligence information” to Al Qaida because once it was online Al Qaida had access to it.
Bradley has suffered torture during his imprisonment since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.
For the first ten months he was kept in solitary confinement. He was denied meaningful exercise, social interaction and sunlight, and was often forced to stay completely naked.
United Nations investigator on torture, Juan Mendez carried out a 14 month investigation after complaints about Bradley’s treatment.
He concluded that Bradley had suffered “cruel and inhuman” treatment.
A judge has ruled that Bradley will get a 112-day reduction in any jail sentence he receives because of this treatment.
Professor Laurence Tribe, who was until recently a senior advisor to the US Justice Department, has also protested over Bradley’s treatment.
Tribe was a Harvard professor who taught president Barack Obama.
Protesters confronted Obama about Bradley’s treatment at a fundraiser event in April 2011. Obama’s response was that Bradley “broke the law”.
No trial to confirm innocence or guilt had taken place at the time.
As Bradley faces his court martial, US troops still occupy Afghanistan and the crimes of US imperialism go unpunished.
But Bradley is standing firm. He described his feelings after sending the files to Wikileaks.
He said, “I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and what I had read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan every day.”