TOPICS > Politics

Alleged WikiLeaks Source Manning Faces First Court Appearance

December 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The next chapter in the WikiLeaks saga.

Ray Suarez has our report.

RAY SUAREZ: The normally tight security at Fort Meade, Md., outside Washington was tighter still today. It was the first court appearance for Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, accused as the prime source for the WikiLeaks document dumps.

The Army intelligence analyst, who turns 24 tomorrow, faced an Article 32 hearing, a military grand jury proceeding. Prosecutors hoped to show there’s enough evidence to court-martial Manning on 22 charges, including espionage and aiding the enemy. It all stems from the largest disclosure of classified information in U.S. history.

JULIAN ASSANGE, WikiLeaks: The first casualty of war is the truth.

RAY SUAREZ: In three installments, the website founded by anti-secrecy advocate Julian Assange posted a fraction of the many thousands of classified documents it was given about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and a trove of State Department cables.

MAN: This is Bushmaster 7. Roger. Engage.

RAY SUAREZ: Among the most incendiary releases, video from a U.S. attack helicopter over Baghdad in 2007.

MAN: Oh, yes, look at that, right through the windshield.  


RAY SUAREZ: The gun crew killed 11 men they deemed a threat. It turned out one of the dead was a cameraman for the Reuters news service.

Then there were the State Department cables showing U.S. efforts to curb Iran’s influence and offering blunt appraisals of corrupt Middle East regimes. Top U.S. officials gave no details, but insisted the leaks caused severe damage to national security.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was out front then and again yesterday.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: It was a very unfortunate and damaging actions that — action that were taken that put at risk individuals and relationships, to an extent that we took it very seriously and launched a vigorous diplomatic effort to try to counter.

RAY SUAREZ: Since his arrest 19 months ago, Manning has been jailed with unusually restrictive conditions at both the Marine base at Quantico, Va., and lately, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Supporters charge his treatment, solitary confinement and routine denial of clothing, has been tantamount to torture. A small group gathered outside Fort Meade today.

If convicted, Manning, who left court today under heavy guard, could face life in prison.