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Pfc. Bradley Manning’s Pre-Trial Hearing In WikiLeaks Scandal Begins

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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FORT MEADE, Md. (WJZ/AP)– The soldier in the middle of the WikiLeaks scandal is accused of leaking classified secrets. Now he is in a Maryland courtroom for a critical hearing.

Mike Hellgren has the latest developments from that courtroom.

This is the equivalent of a grand jury hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence to move forward with the allegations against Bradley Manning. His defense shows they are not backing down with the whole world watching.

Army Private Bradley Manning spilled thousands of U.S. government secrets to WikiLeaks and now faces the wrath of the federal government.

Outside his pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, his supporters said he’s no traitor.

“He saw something that was wrong,” Chris Lombordi, a supporter of Manning, said. “He knew about a way to get it out there and he took the chance to do that.”

“You gotta call the atrocities when you see them or they’ll run rapid,” Jim Goodnow, another Manning supporter, said.

But top government leaders, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barrack Obama, have condemned his actions saying they compromised the security of fellow soldiers.

The government says Manning released a classified military video of an American attack in Iraq that killed 11 and embarrassing State Department documents with candid comments about world leaders.

Denver Nicks wrote a book about the scandal.

“The defense, at this point, appears to hinge mostly on his emotional distress. He’s apparently under substantial emotional distress,” Nicks said.

Manning’s civilian lawyer, David Coombs, argued the whole case be thrown out saying: “If the Department of Justice got their way, they would get a plea in this case and get my client to be named as one of the witnesses to go after Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.”

Assange is WikiLeaks’ embattled founder.

“Manning’s defense team would like to call about 48 witnesses, including President Obama, Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Gates,” Nicks explained. “And if those witnesses are called, then it could be a really interesting substantive hearing.”

So how did he do it? The government says even though Manning had a low rank, he still had access to all these confidential files and in many cases, the government says, he would simply take a disc and slip it into the computer and go out without anyone noticing.

The hearing is expected to last into next week. There will be large protests outside Fort Meade Saturday.

Paul R. Almanza, the presiding officer at the hearing, won a Justice Department award last year for his work in developing and advocating the department’s position on hate crimes legislation.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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