Zee Media Bureau
Fort Meade: In a startling accusation, prosecutors said on Monday that Pfc Bradley Manning gave US military secrets to al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden.
Manning went on trial over leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents yesterday.
The lawyers of the 25-year-old Army intelligence analyst countered by arguing that he was a "young, naive but good-intentioned" soldier whose struggle to fit in as a gay man in the military made him feel he "needed to do something to make a difference in this world”.
Manning has admitted turning over the material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, pleading guilty earlier this year to charges that could bring 20 years behind bars. But the military pressed ahead with a court-martial on more serious charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.
Prosecutors said they will present evidence that bin Laden requested and obtained from another al Qaeda member Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables published by WikiLeaks.
"This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of documents from classified databases and then dumped that information onto the Internet into the hands of the enemy," prosecutor Captain Joe Morrow said.
He said the case is "about what happens when arrogance meets access to sensitive information”.
Wearing his dress blue uniform, the slightly built Manning peered through his small eyeglasses at a slide show of the prosecutor`s hour-long opening statement, watching on a laptop computer at the defence table. The slideshow also was projected on three larger screens in the courtroom, which had seats for only about 50 people.
The WikiLeaks case is by far the most voluminous release of classified material in US history, and certainly the most sensational since the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers, a secret Defence Department history of US involvement in Vietnam.
Manning`s supporters — including Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg — have hailed him as a whistleblowing hero and political prisoner. Others say he is a traitor who endangered lives and national security.
(With Agency inputs)