By Leila Fadel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 7, 2010; A06
BAGHDAD -- The military said Tuesday that it has charged an Army intelligence analyst in connection with the leak of a controversial video and the downloading and transfer of classified State Department cables, in a case that is likely to further deter would-be whistleblowers.
The case against Pfc. Bradley Manning, 22, reflects the tough stance the Obama administration appears to be taking against the disclosure of classified information. A memo by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last week warned that such leaks would not be "tolerated" and would be prosecuted when proved -- an attitude that some analysts suggested could carry a cost.
"Potential whistleblowers may judge that the risks of revealing classified information are too high," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. "When real misconduct is involved, that would be an unfortunate conclusion to draw. Many of the most important violations of law and policy, from warrantless wiretapping to torture of detainees, have become public through unauthorized disclosures of classified information."
Aftergood emphasized, however, that it is unclear what was in many of the cables Manning allegedly obtained and that some leaked information could have dire national security and diplomatic consequences.
Manning was detained in May after Wikileaks.org, a Web site that aims to expose government and corporate secrets, released the video it had allegedly obtained from him. The footage, taken by cameras on U.S. Apache helicopters, shows several civilians, including two Reuters news agency employees, being killed in a U.S. strike in Iraq in July 2007.
Manning faces two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating army regulations by transferring classified information, including the video, to a personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information. The military said additional charges are possible.
Among the materials Manning is accused of transmitting to "a person not entitled to receive them" are the video and more than 50 classified diplomatic cables. According to the charge sheet, he also downloaded more than 150,000 unclassified cables.
Manning, who was with the 10th Mountain Division in Iraq, was detained and taken to Kuwait after a former hacker said Manning had bragged to him about leaking classified information, including hundreds of thousands of State Department cables.
"Mr. Manning has implicated himself there if he was our source," said Daniel Schmitt, a spokesman for Wikileaks. "Now, with the charges, we know what the government is going for."
Schmitt said that Wikileaks has retained lawyers to look into the case but that they have been unable to make contact with Manning. He said he hopes they will have access to him now that he has been charged.
Manning is represented by Capt. Paul Bouchard of the Judge Advocate General's Corps and has not retained a civilian lawyer, a military spokesman said.
The military said in a statement that after an Article 32 investigation, similar to a grand jury hearing, it will determine whether to "refer the case to trial by court-martial."