US soldier at center of WikiLeaks case set to go on trial

June 1, 2013 14:17

WASHINGTON - The American soldier accused of the biggest leak of classified information in US history, which prosecutors say put lives at risk, goes on trial on Monday in a case that raises questions about the limits of secrecy and openness in the Internet era.

Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, is charged with providing more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy website.He said the move was intended to spark renewed debate on US military action. But the government says the leaks damaged national security and endangered American lives. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

The military trial at Fort Meade, Maryland, about 30 miles (50 km) northeast of Washington, is expected to run until at least late August. Prosecutors have said they expect to call more than 100 witnesses.

Civil liberties groups say the court-martial has been shrouded in secrecy and has had a chilling effect on whistleblowers.

Manning faces 21 counts, including the most serious one of aiding the enemy, as well as prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917.

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