News / USA

US Army Private, Missing Australian at Center of WikiLeaks Controversy

The U.S. Army analyst accused of downloading classified diplomatic cables toWikiLeaks  has been in custody since May. And the Australian founder of the WikiLeak s website faces his own legal difficulties. We have more on the story causing so much controversy in the world of diplomacy, and what may lie ahead for the two men at the center of it.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the midst of a four-day overseas tour, says she is reassuring other foreign ministers that Wikileaks  will not obstruct American diplomacy.

But what U.S. authorities want to obstruct is the freedom of Bradley Manning - the American soldier who allegedly leaked the classified information. It's still unclear what they'll do with Julian Assange - the man who published it on Wikileaks.  

Assange is in hiding, the subject of a worldwide manhunt. The international crime agency Interpol has him on its most wanted list.  Sweden seeks him on sexual assault charges.   And in the United States...

"There's an ongoing criminal investigation into the leaking and the posting of all these documents," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

"We are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

What charge might the U.S. file against him?  Espionage, for one. Revealing classified information.  But consider this:  the act is nearly 100 years old.  It's never been tested against modern electronic, media. And if it is? Legal scholars say the public's right to know would be the defense

There is plenty of evidence - 250,000 documents.  But with espionage, the government must prove that the classified information damaged national defense. And that might reveal other secrets.

Pat Rowan is a former U.S. assistant attorney general for national security:

"The most harmful documents, the ones that pain the U.S. government for them to be in public, are the same ones that someone in a trial would have to stand up and point to and say, 'Here's why it's harmful.' That further shoves the knife in further and turns the handle a bit," said Rowan.

But Assange is not on U.S. soil.  He is an Australian, thought to be hiding in England.  Rowan says officials should ignore public and foreign pressure to charge him.

"You wait for two or three or four or five years for him to go from a place where he thinks he's safe," said Rowan. "Perhaps he decides to travel around the world because his mother is sick, he goes through an airport in a country where you have good connections with and he's detainted there and brought to the U.S. That's the way the government usually prosecutes these kinds of cases."

Meantime, Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is in military custody south of Washington.  He is charged with leaking classified documents.  Manning could be court martialed and, if convicted, jailed for several decades.
Jonathan Tracy will be an observer at Manning's trial.  He's a former judge advocate with the U.S. Army.

"It's a serious case so if it's true that he did do this, the military commander is going to consider that a significant breach oc law and will want to charge him at a court martial," said Tracy.

Manning is supported by at least two Websites.  And in addition to his military defense attorney, he has hired a former Army lawyer as a civilian counsel.  Manning has been in jail for six months.

"The military justice system is a very deliberative system, so sometimes that requires that it moves slowly," added Tracy.

So, for a while, the only thing on trial related to Wikileaks, is America's diplomacy abroad.  


Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

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