By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun
5:58 PM EST, November 21, 2011
A military hearing for Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former intelligence analyst accused of giving classified materials about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks, has been scheduled for next month at Fort Meade.
The primary purpose of the Article 32 hearing is "to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the government's case as well as to provide the defense with an opportunity to obtain pretrial discovery," Manning's attorney wrote Monday on his website.
The hearing is scheduled to begin Dec. 16 and is expected to last five days, according to attorney David E. Coombs. The defense may call witnesses and cross-examine the government's witnesses. Witnesses are placed under oath, and their testimony may be used during a trial.
It will be Manning's first appearance in a military courtroom since his arrest in May 2010.
Manning, 23, faces a court-martial on nearly two dozen charges related to the leak of hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, a website that has published leaked information about governments and companies. He has been held in maximum-security confinement since his arrest.
The materials included war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, diplomatic cables from the State Department and video footage of a 2007 helicopter attack that killed 12 in Baghdad, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver.
If convicted, Manning could be sentenced to life in prison.
His supporters say the information was incorrectly and illegally classified, and that whoever leaked it should be protected as a whistle-blower. They plan a demonstration outside Fort Meade during the hearing.
"The charges against Bradley Manning are an indictment of our government's obsession with secrecy," anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg said in a statement released Monday by the Bradley Manning Support Network.
"Manning is accused of revealing illegal activities by our government and its corporate partners that must be brought to the attention of the American people," said Ellsburg, the former military analyst who released the Vietnam War records known as the Pentagon Papers. "The Obama administration lacks the courage to confront the crimes and injustices that now stand exposed."
Manning's detention at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va. — where he was held from July 2010 until April of this year in a maximum-security, single-occupancy cell, placed on a prevention-of-injury order and allowed to wear only a suicide-proof smock at night — drew concern from Amnesty International and a request to visit from a United Nations torture investigator.
Manning was moved in April to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
President Barack Obama and Pentagon officials have defended the conditions of his detention.
The courtroom at Fort Meade is one of three in the national capital region, according to a spokeswoman for the Military District of Washington. Officials plan to set up a media center and pool reporting to accommodate interest from the national and international media.
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