Manning, a 24-year old private, was working as a low-ranking intelligence analyst. He is accused of being the person responsible for handing over to WikiLeaks over 700,000 secret documents last year. Among the several charges laid against him, the most serious are – aiding the enemy and wrongful publication of intelligence on the Internet. If he is found guilty, he could be imprisoned for life.
Manning served in Iraq from November 2009 till May 2010. It was during this period that he gave away to WikiLeaks, State Department cables, assessments of Gitmo detainees and several videos of military air strikes.
The publication of such a huge amount of classified material resulted in top government officials, including Hilary Clinton, running around the world, trying to assure allies and trying to underplay the damage done.
In a preliminary hearing that took place in December, military prosecutors showed evidence of Manning downloading and transferring to WikiLeaks classified and sensitive battlefield reports from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Manning’s defense team claims that he was emotionally unstable at the time when he had access to the intelligence reports. They say he should have never been cleared for that work considering his previous behavior which had already earned him red flags in the system.
The team also claims that one of the reasons for his emotional turmoil was the fact that he was a gay soldier while the military was still following the now abandoned “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He later on even sought out online counseling for gender reassignment surgery.