Army Sets December Court Date for Alleged Leaker Bradley Manning

The former Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking classified and sensitive documents to WikiLeaks will finally get a public hearing next month, more than 18 months after he was first arrested.

Bradley Manning will have an Article 32 hearing beginning on Dec. 16 at Fort Meade in Maryland. The hearing, which is expected to last five days, is a military procedure similar to a grand jury hearing, whereby prosecutors will lay out their evidence before a judge who will determine if the case is sufficiently strong for the young private to be court-martialed.

The Army has filed 22 counts against Manning, including a capital charge of aiding the enemy, for which the government said it would not seek the death penalty. Other charges include five counts of theft of public property or records, two counts of computer fraud, eight counts of transmitting defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, and one count of wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing it would be accessible to the enemy.

If convicted of all charges, Manning faces a maximum punishment of life in prison, the Army said in a press release.

The hearing will be open to the media and public, except for points in the proceedings where classified information may be discussed. Fort Meade, where the hearing will occur, is the home of the U.S. National Security Agency.

The hearing represents the first time that the defense has an opportunity to hear the government’s entire case against Manning. Both the prosecution and defense will be able to call witnesses to the hearing and cross-examine them, according to a blog post by Manning’s attorney, David E. Coombs. The defense will also receive copies of the criminal investigation files and witness statements.

Manning, 23, was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq after allegedly telling a former hacker that he had leaked vast amounts of classified material to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks. He was subsequently transferred to Kuwait, where he was detained for about two months before being moved to the Quantico brig at the end of July.

For most of his time at the brig, Manning was held in highly restrictive pretrial confinement. Designated a maximum-custody detainee under prevention-of-injury watch, or POI, he was confined to his cell for all but an hour a day, and had a number of other restrictions placed on him.

Last April, after charges from his attorney and supporters that Manning was being unfairly treated at the brig, he was moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where most of the restrictions on him were removed and he was able to eat, visit and exercise with other prisoners.

On April 9, Manning was interviewed for a mental health assessment requested by his attorney. The so-called “706 board” inquiry was held to determine if Manning suffered a “severe mental disease or defect” at the time of his alleged leaking. He was subsequently ruled competent to stand trial.

If the judge presiding over the Article 32 hearing determines that the case should proceed for court-martial, Manning will be tried in the Washington, D.C. area, according to the Army.