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Court-Martial Could Put Manning In Prison For Life

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Friday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene, in for Renee Montagne.

An Army investigator has recommended that Private Bradley Manning face court-martial on charges of theft and aiding the enemy. Manning is accused of downloading nearly a million field reports and diplomatic cables while on duty in Iraq, and passing them to the website WikiLeaks. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The military investigator says there's enough evidence to believe Bradley Manning is responsible for one of the biggest leaks in recent history. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza says the 24-year-old intelligence analyst should face court-martial on charges that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life. Higher-ups in the military will have a chance to review and change that recommendation, but experts say changes at this stage are unlikely.

Eugene Fidell teaches military justice at Yale Law School.

EUGENE FIDELL: I think it'll move quite quickly. At this point, I'd be surprised if we didn't have a referral to a general court-martial in the next several weeks.

JOHNSON: Manning supporters say he's being railroaded. And Manning's civilian defense lawyer, David Coombs, signaled he's not giving up. He's still trying to interview people who evaluated the materials Manning allegedly leaked, to find out whether they were really government secrets. Coombs says most of the information should not have been classified, and the leak didn't cause any harm to national security.

Donald Vieira worked at the Justice Department. He says prosecutors often take a long view in leak cases.

DONALD VIEIRA: If there aren't consequences for leaking that information, I think there's a sense - at least - that it can become a green light for others.

JOHNSON: And in Manning's case, the whole world is watching.

Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.