By Jim Kouri
The investigating officer in the controversial Wikileaks case recommended that Army Pfc. Bradley Manning face a general court-martial for charges of leaking classified documents, according to Donna Miles of the American Forces Press Service.
Army Lt. Colonel Paul Almanza issued his recommendation, concluding that reasonable grounds exist to believe that Manning committed the alleged offenses, according to Miles.
The 24-year-old intelligence analyst is suspected of leaking military and diplomatic documents to the Julian Assange-owned website WikiLeaks in what military and political officials believe is the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
WikiLeaks, in turn, released thousands of these documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its website in 2011.
Manning faces over 20 separate charges alleging that he introduced unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloaded it, improperly stored it, and transmitted the data for public release and use by the enemy.
Manning had voiced his disgust with US Army commanders and U.S. “society at large” on his Facebook page just prior to his alleged downloading of thousands of secret documents, according to the British news media.
According to one story appearing in Britain’s The Telegraph, Manning, who served as an Army intelligence analyst, became depressed after a break-up with his homosexual companion. He also wrote: “Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment,” and quoted a joke about “military intelligence” being an oxymoron.
Manning, who is openly homosexual, began his gloomy postings on January 12, saying: “Bradley Manning didn’t want this fight. Too much to lose, too fast.”
Almanza’s report concluded that the charges and specifications are in proper form for the case to move forward, Miles noted.
His recommendation follows eight days of pretrial proceedings during Manning’s Article 32 hearing, with both prosecution and defense delivering their closing statements on December 22.
An Article 32 hearing, often compared to a civilian grand jury, is a pretrial hearing to determine if grounds exist for a general court-martial, the most serious of courts-martial.
The special court-martial convening authority, Army Colonel Carl Coffman, will now review Almanza’s report, officials said. He will determine if the charges should be handled at his level or forwarded to Army Major General Michael S. Linnington, the general court-martial convening authority.
If convicted of all charges, Manning would face a maximum punishment of life in prison. He also could be reduced to E-1, the lowest enlisted grade, and could face forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge, officials said.