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2nd officer recommends Manning be court-martialed

WASHINGTON — A low-ranking intelligence analyst charged in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history is a step closer to a general court-martial, the Army says, after a second officer signed off on the procedure.

Col. Carl Coffman sent his recommendation Wednesday to Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington, commander of the Military District of Washington, according to a statement emailed to The Associated Press. Linnington now must decide whether to order a trial for Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Coffman, garrison commander of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall near Washington, concurred with Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, the presiding officer at Manning’s preliminary hearing last month, that Manning should be tried by a court-martial. The 24-year-old Crescent, Okla., native faces 22 counts, including aiding the enemy.

Coffman’s recommendation didn’t specify whether he agreed with Almanza that Manning should be tried on all counts.

Manning could be imprisoned for life if convicted of aiding the enemy, the most serious charge. The charge carries a maximum penalty of death, but Almanza has recommended against seeking the death penalty. Ultimately, however, that decision lies with Linnington.

Manning allegedly gave more than 700,000 secret U.S. documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks for publication. Prosecutors say WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange collaborated with Manning.

Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there from late 2009 to mid-2010.