Bradley Manning faces life imprisonment in whistleblower case

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NORMAN, Okla. - Oklahomans are paying particular attention to the case of PFC Bradley Manning, an Oklahoma native. Hearings on his case  commenced at Fort Meade, Md., last month. Manning, 24, stands accused of leaking classified files to whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks.  For his alleged role in the incident, which the UK Guardian called "the biggest leak of U.S. state secrets in history," Manning faces probable life imprisonment.

The files which WikiLeaks released to the public contained documentation of previously-concealed crimes committed by the U.S., as well as embarrassing information about U.S. actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Arguably the most prominent such document was a video of U.S. soldiers shooting Iraqi journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh in an incident for which Army spokespeople had denied U.S. responsibility.

Manning's military-administrated hearing, which began Dec. 16, has been tightly controlled; the Nation reports that observers have been prohibited from bringing cell phones, computers and other recording devices into the courtroom. The most comprehensive coverage of the hearing has been provided by Bradley Manning Support Network correspondent Rainey Reitman.

According to Reitman, Manning requested that investigating officer Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, whose position in the court is equivalent to that of a judge, remove himself from the case.  Manning contended that Almanza's work as a prosecuting attorney for the Department of Justice presented a potential conflict of interest.  Almanza, however, declined to recuse himself, asserting that no conflict of interest existed.

Reitman also reported that, at the conclusion of proceedings December 16, Army veteran Nate Goldschlag called out "You're a hero!" to Manning from the gallery. Numerous Manning supporters have also expressed solidarity by picketing outside the facility.

According to a military spokesperson, official transcripts of the trial will not be available until March or April 2012.

Photo: In this courtroom sketch, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, second from left, and his attorney listen as a member of the prosecution presents his closing arguments in Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 22, 2011, during a military hearing. William Hennessy/AP