RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Closing arguments in the Bradley Manning trial are scheduled for tomorrow. The Army private first class admitted to perpetrating the largest leak of classified data in U.S. history. That's when he sent secret government documents to Wikileaks in 2010. The U.S. government has charged Manning with 22 offenses. The most serious is aiding the enemy, and he could face life in prison if he's convicted.
David Dishneau of the Associated Press has been closely following this case and he joins us now. Dave, good morning.
DAVID DISHNEAU: Good morning.
GREENE: So take us back, if you can. Bradley Manning arrested in 2010, accused of a lot in 2009. What does the government charge him with doing?
DISHNEAU: He deployed in November 2009 to Iraq as an intelligence analyst, and his job there gave him access to a wide range of classified information that the defense contends he was authorized to look at as part of doing his job. He became dismayed by some of the things that he saw. This is all according to a courtroom statement he made.
DISHNEAU: Felt that some of the documents he was viewing illustrated what he considered wrongdoing by the U.S. military and U.S. diplomats. And so he downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents to his computer and then sent it on to Wikileaks.
GREENE: To Wikileaks. And so the government is now, as I mentioned, among other charges, suggesting that he aided the enemy. What does the prosecution have to do to prove that charge?
DISHNEAU: Well, that is the most serious charge he faces. That's punishable by up to life in prison. The big question there is whether he knew that the material he leaked would be seen by al-Qaida members. The prosecution has presented evidence that Manning was trained not to put classified information online, that he knew the enemy in general used the Internet, and that Osama bin Laden had in his possession when he was killed digital copies of some of the documents that Wikileaks published.
GREENE: So he knew the risk. That's essentially the prosecution's argument.
DISHNEAU: The prosecution has presented evidence that he was very well aware of the risk. But the defense contends that Manning was never trained that al-Qaida specifically looks at Wikileaks specifically. There's also the matter of whether Manning had a general evil intent when he leaked the material. That might sound like a difficult thing for the prosecution to prove, but it's actually a lower bar than the defense wanted.
The defense had wanted the government to have to prove that Manning intended for al-Qaida to see the material. The judge agreed with the government that that would've turned the case into an argument over Manning's motive and she had already said in an earlier ruling that the defense would be very tightly restricted in being able to present evidence of motive.
GREENE: OK. So Bradley Manning's lawyer's arguing he did not have evil intent, he did not aid the enemy. But Manning has pleaded guilty to some counts. What exactly has he admitted to doing?
DISHNEAU: Well, he's pleaded guilty to lesser versions of nine counts of federal espionage and computer fraud laws, and also to one count alleging violation of a military regulation that prohibits the wrongful storage of classified information.
GREENE: And you know, I guess one question about this case, Dave, if Bradley Manning is convicted, and how this sort of comes together, is there a precedent that will be created for cases against other alleged leakers? And I'm thinking of a name we've heard a lot recently, and that's Edward Snowden.
DISHNEAU: Well, Edward Snowden would be tried in civilian court, not military court. Aiding the enemy is a military charge. But critics of what the government's doing here do say that a conviction for aiding the enemy here would be tantamount to making anybody who leaks information to any news organization subject to possible life imprisonment for spilling secrets.
GREENE: We've been getting caught up on the trial of Bradley Manning. He sent secret government documents to Wikileaks in 2010 and closing arguments in his trial are scheduled for tomorrow. Dave, thanks so much for talking to us.
DISHNEAU: Oh, well, thank you very much.
GREENE: Dave Dishneau is a reporter with the Associated Press. Now, one quick update on Edward Snowden. The Russian government has reportedly granted the NSA leaker permission to leave a Moscow airport pending his asylum request. NPR News will be covering this story on air and online throughout the day.
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