Bradley Manning Found Guilty Of 19 Counts, Not Guilty Of Aiding The Enemy
By Matt Sledge
FORT MEADE, Md. — Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who laid bare America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by covertly transmitting a massive trove of sensitive government documents to WikiLeaks, has been convicted on 19 of 21 charges, including 6 counts of espionage. He was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, the most serious and controversial charge laid against him.
After warning a courtroom packed with 30 spectators, almost all of them Manning supporters, that she would accept no disruptions, the judge overseeing his military court martial, Col. Denise Lind, rapidly delivered her verdict in a crisp voice.
For journalists watching the proceedings from a remote media room, there was no time to gauge Manning’s reaction before the military cut off a live feed from the courtroom.
The prosecution’s novel legal theory that Manning knew his disclosures to WikiLeaks, once published on the Internet, would wind up in al Qaeda’s possession could have had implications that extended beyond the fate of the 25-year-old Crescent, Okla., native.
Although he had admitted the underlying fact of his disclosures to WikiLeaks, and to many of the lesser charges against him, the prosecution nonetheless went ahead with trying to prove Manning was guilty of aiding al Qaeda. Press freedom advocates had warned that if he was convicted on that count, the verdict would threaten to criminalize both journalists and their sources.
“We’re obviously relieved that he wasn’t sentenced on the most serious charges when there was no evidence to convict him,” said Widney Brown, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty International. Pointing to the Espionage Act convictions, however, she said Manning’s lawyer should have been allowed to raise a defense that his leaks were in the larger interest of justice. Lind prevented him from making such a case.
“While we’re relieved that Mr. Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Since Manning already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information – which carry significant punishment – it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”
The verdict brings to a close the three-year period since Manning’s arrest in May 2010 that saw the private first class living in a state of limbo, subjected to conditions in solitary confinement that a UN investigator compared to torture. He now faces 136 years in prison. It is highly unlikely that he will be given a sentence that long, but even a shorter term could mean he spends the rest of his life behind bars. The sentencing phase of the trial, which could feature significant testimony from both government and defense witnesses on the impact of Manning’s leaks, will begin Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
When they were made public in 2010 and 2011, Manning’s leaks — 391,832 battlefield reports from Iraq, 75,000 reports from Afghanistan, and 251,287 State Department Cables — rocked the world with their details on the intimate doings of the US Departments of Defense and State. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton protested the damage she said they had done to international relations, and once Manning was arrested in May 2010, the current chair of the House Intelligence committee suggested that he should face the death penalty.
Manning’s supporters include Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and Edward Snowden. Since his arrest Manning’s supporters have maintained that he’s “a classic whistleblower,” words Snowden has since used himself. Read more in the Huffington Post.