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Trial Of Alleged Wikileaks Leaker Bradley Manning Begins

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Army Pfc. Bradley Manning steps out of a security vehicle as he is escorted into a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, for a pretrial hearing.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning steps out of a security vehicle as he is escorted into a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, for a pretrial hearing.

The long-awaited trial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who's accused of leaking classified material, began today at Fort Meade in Maryland.

In his hour-long opening statement on Monday, prosecutor Capt. John Morrow said this case is an example of what happens when arrogance meets access to sensitive information. Morrow opened his hour long statement with a slide containing a message that Manning allegedly posted online. It read: "If you had unprecedented access to classified information, fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, what would you do?"

Prosecutors say the message was sent to ex-hacker Adrian Lamo, who later reported Manning to authorities.

Manning is charged with the largest leak of classified documents in United States history. The government will be arguing that the leaking of classified material to Wikileaks endangered U.S. soldiers and hurt U.S. diplomatic relations. For that the government wants Manning to be locked up for life.

Defense attorney David Coombs took a different tack, telling Judge Denise Lind that his client embraces a philosophy that values life.

Coombs explained how Manning was deeply troubled after witnessing an attack in Iraq, which killed a civilian and injured many others. Coomb says that was the beginning of a struggle which led the former Intelligence analyst to reveal information that could make a difference without putting U.S. lives at risk.

He further described Manning as young and naive, saying he had good intentions and thought he could make the world a better place.

This was a sentiment echoed by Daniel Choi, a former Army Lieutenant, and one of many Manning supporters holding a vigil outside of Fort Meade Monday morning. He says that even as Manning broke the law, he lived up to the military code.

"The one thing that they demand of you regardless of your political views or the situation is that you stay steadfast and loyal to the Constitution. And so for me the bigger issue is that we re setting a culture within the military against truth, against courage," he says.

Choi says he's hoping people closely watch the details of the case, which includes the leaking of videos of U.S. soldiers allegedly gunning down innocent civilians and journalists in Iraq.

"A lot of people should be focused on what comes out in this case because if the government can so easily make truth into the enemy then we re not going to have very many friends at the end of the war."

Manning's trial could take as many as three months.

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