The US Army [official website] on Tuesday formally charged [press release] Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website] for leaking a controversial classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq and classified State Department [official website] documents. Manning faces two charges [charge sheet, PDF] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] for the transfer of classified information and exceeding his authorized computer access. Manning was detained in Kuwait [NYT report] in May after releasing the video, entitled "Collateral Murder," on Wikileaks [website]. The video was recorded in July 2007 by a US Apache helicopter gun-sight camera and shows several civilians, including two Reuters journalists, being gunned down by the helicopter in Baghdad, Iraq. Manning is also accused of releasing more than 150,000 classified State Department cables and a PowerPoint presentation. Wikileaks does not ask sources to identify themselves, but Manning was reported to authorities by former hacker Andrian Lamo, who learned of the leaks after forming an online friendship with the soldier. Due to the gravity of the charges, Manning's investigation could lead to a court-martial.
The prosecution of Manning has sparked heated debate between defenders and critics. Those who support Manning's actions Manning refer to him as courageous for acting as a whistleblower [advocacy petition] against government crime and corruption. He has been compared to famous US whistleblowers such as Frank Serpico and Daniel Ellsberg [personal websites], who leaked information regarding corruption in the New York Police Department and the Pentagon, respectively. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [official profile] has criticized the video [WSJ report], claiming it provides the public a view of warfare "as seen through a soda straw." He noted that public attention was not drawn to what was discovered by US ground forces following the helicopter gunfire, including AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He also defended the reality of fighting terrorist organizations, which is made up of combatants who do not wear enemy uniforms.