A US Army soldier who has admitted giving
thousands of classified documents to the whistle-blowing website
WikiLeaks was due Tuesday in a military courtroom for a round of
Private First Class Bradley Manning faces charges including aiding the enemy.
Manning, 25, still faces 12 more serious charges in a court martial scheduled to begin June 3 at Fort Meade, Maryland, after pleading guilty to lesser charges.
He confessed to giving WikiLeaks about 250,000 diplomatic cables, assessment files of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and logs of military incident reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. But Manning said he thought carefully about the information he was releasing to ensure it would not cause harm.
Manning, in a statement he read in court in February when he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges, said he gave the classified documents to Wikileaks in a bid to expose what he said were abuses by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I believed the cables would not damage the US but would be embarrassing," Manning said.
He said his goal was to "spark domestic debate on the role of our military, and foreign policy in general."
The leak was the biggest ever involving secrets kept by the US government, and top US officials called the incident "potentially severe and dangerous."
Some of the documents disseminated by WikiLeaks allegedly were obtained by Osama bin Laden. The papers allegedly provided details of incidents in which US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by Iraqi police commandos.
The round of pretrial hearings beginning Tuesday was expected to take up such matters as how to handle witnesses who may discuss classified information.
The lesser charges to which Manning pleaded guilty included accumulating classified information and giving that information to an unauthorized person. Under the plea Manning would serve at least 20 years.
He would face a sentence of up to life in prison if convicted of the more serious charges.
The WikiLeaks affair also ensnared WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up for nearly a year in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange, 41, was arrested in London at the request of Sweden in December, 2010. He sought refuge at the embassy in an attempt to avoid his extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations.
He denies the sexual offences, claiming the effort to extradite him to Sweden could lead to his handover to the United States in connection with the leak of the classified diplomatic cables.
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