WASHINGTON — Army Pfc. Bradley Manning should face a court martial for allegedly leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, the investigating officer in the case has concluded after a pretrial hearing last month.
The recommendation by Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, who presided over the equivalent of preliminary hearing, now will be considered by a special court martial convening authority.
Almanza found that “reasonable grounds exist to believe” that Manning committed the alleged offenses, including aiding the enemy, according to a statement issued Thursday by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.
Manning, 24, a native of Crescent, OK, whose father still lives in the state, is accused of giving hundreds of thousands of U.S. military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks for publication on the Internet.
The former intelligence analyst, who was stationed in Iraq at the time of his alleged crimes, is facing 22 separate charges related to his acts and could face life in prison. The investigating officer refused a defense request to reduce the 22 charges to three.
Manning is being held at the Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas.
His case has spawned international support from those who view him as a patriotic whistle-blower; among those are Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers about U.S. policy in Vietnam and has made frequent appearances at demonstrations in support of Manning.
A group called the Bradley Manning Support Network staged several protests about Manning's treatment at a U.S. Marine Corps brig in Virginia before he was moved to Kansas. And the group organized rallies outside the Army base in Maryland where Manning's hearing was held in December.
Kevin Zeese, a legal adviser to group, said Thursday that the charges against Manning “contradict the administration's own impact assessments which showed that these WikiLeaks revelations posed no threat to our national security.”
“But since the Obama administration appears dead set on railroading Bradley Manning through their show trial, we can't expect them to allow such critical evidence or testimony to be considered.”
Manning's civilian defense attorney, David E. Coombs, argued during the seven-day hearing in Maryland last month that Manning suffered from emotional problems and believed he was a woman trapped in a man's body.
Coombs on Thursday asked the government for permission to conduct depositions with people who had some control over determining whether information leaked by Manning was classified. Manning's attorneys contend that the most serious charge against him, aiding the enemy, was not justified.
Prosecutors have said however that the information was used by al-Qaida.