US soldier charged with releasing classified documents competent to stand trial

[JURIST] A US Army [official website] panel of experts on Friday declared Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] competent to stand trial for leaking a controversial classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq and classified State Department [official website] documents on Wikileaks [website] last year. It took a panel of psychiatrists nearly nine months [CBS report] to determine Manning's competency. Manning was transferred [DOJ press release; Kansas Star report] last week from pre-trial solitary confinement to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility [DOJ report, PDF] at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A date for the pre-trial hearing has not yet been set.

Manning faces two charges [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] for the transfer of classified information and exceeding his authorized computer access. His prosecution has sparked heated debate between defenders and critics. Those who support Manning's actions refer to him as courageous for acting as a whistleblower [advocacy petition] against government crime and corruption. He has been compared to famous US whistleblowers such as Frank Serpico and Daniel Ellsberg [personal websites], who leaked information regarding corruption in the New York Police Department and the Pentagon, respectively. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [official profile] has criticized the video [WSJ report], claiming it provides the public a view of warfare "as seen through a soda straw." He noted that public attention was not drawn to what was discovered by US ground forces following the helicopter gunfire, including AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He also defended the reality of fighting terrorist organizations, which is made up of combatants who do not wear enemy uniforms.

 

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