By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2012 - The investigating officer has recommended that Army Pfc. Bradley Manning face a general court-martial for charges of leaking classified documents, Military District of Washington officials announced yesterday.
Army Lt. Col. Paul Almanza issued his recommendation yesterday, concluding that reasonable grounds exist to believe that Manning committed the alleged offenses, officials said.
The 24-year-old intelligence analyst is suspected of leaking military and diplomatic documents to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in what officials believe is the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
WikiLeaks, in turn, released thousands of these documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its website last year.
Manning faces more than 20 charges alleging he introduced unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloaded it, improperly stored it, and transmitted the data for public release and use by the enemy.
Almanza's report concluded that the charges and specifications are in proper form for the case to move forward, officials said.
His recommendation follows eight days of pretrial proceedings during Manning's Article 32 hearing, with both prosecution and defense delivering their closing statements Dec. 22.
An Article 32 hearing, often compared to a civilian grand jury, is a pretrial hearing to determine if grounds exist for a general court-martial, the most serious of courts-martial.
The special court-martial convening authority, Army Col. Carl Coffman, will now review Almanza's report, officials said. He will determine if the charges should be handled at his level or forwarded to Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, the general court-martial convening authority.
If convicted of all charges, Manning would face a maximum punishment of life in prison. He also could be reduced to E-1, the lowest enlisted grade, and could face forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge, officials said.