Trial Begins for ‘Naïve but Well-Intentioned’ Bradley Manning

Mike O'Brien

The trial of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning for handing over highly-sensitive material to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks finally got underway on Monday, with his lawyer describing him as naðve but with "good intentions."

The 25-year-old former intelligence analyst, who faces life in prison if convicted, is accused of releasing thousands of sensitive documents in what has been described the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow said Manning put classified information on the Internet which then fell into enemy hands.

"This is a case of about what happens when arrogance meets access to sensitive information," Mr. Morrow said.

Prosecutors say they will present evidence that Osama bin Laden asked for and received information given to WikiLeaks.

Manning, who sat in the courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland in his dark green dress uniform, chose to have his court-martial heard by a judge instead of a jury. The case is expected to run throughout the summer.

Manning told military judge Army Col. Denise Lind in February that he leaked the material to expose the American military's "bloodlust" and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan, adding that he did not believe the information would harm the U.S.

The judge accepted his guilty plea to reduced charges for about half of the alleged offenses, the Associated Press reports.

Manning is regarded as a whistleblowing hero by his supporters. About 20 assembled outside the front gates of the base on Monday.

The Bradley Manning Support Network says it has raised more than $1.1 million for his defense.

His well-known supporters include documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, musician Graham Nash, actor John Cusack and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg.