Nightly News | December 18, 2011
>>> now to the u.s. army private charged with treason, accused of giving away government secrets that were famously revealed to the world via wikileaks . it was the largest leak of classified information in american history . tonight, lawyers for bradley manning have unleashed a surprise defense, trying to keep their client from facing a court-martial. our chief pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski has details.
>> reporter: it is the first public glimpse of private first class bradley manning in a year and a half. he's been locked away in military jails on charges in the wikileaks scandal. sitting quietly in the courtroom, manning appeared for today's hearing to determine if he should face court-martial. manning is charged with knowingly giving information to the enemy, by leaking hundreds of thousands of secret documents that were then published on the internet. but the prosecution claims that while in baghdad, as an intelligence analyst , manning stole the classified information from military computers. manning 's lawyers blame the leak on the military's own lax security and revealed that manning suffers from something called gender identity disorder , that he sometimes dressed as a woman, and at a facebook page under the name brianna. they sent manning to the sensitive intel job in iraq anyway. manning 's accused of leaking this classified video from an american helicopter gun ship over baghdad. killing suspected militants and two employees of reuters news service. he's also suspected of leaking secrets on american combat operations in iraq and thousands of embarrassing u.s. diplomatic cables with rude cracks about some of america's allies. almost all of it wound up on wikileaks , released publicly by its controversial founder julian assange.
>> the strength of this material is that it is from people on the ground.
>> reporter: that's exactly the government's claim against manning . if court-martialed and convicted, he could face the death penalty or life in prison . jim miklaszewski , nbc news, washington.