By Chelsea J. Carter, Ashley Fantz and Larry Shaughnessy. A military judge acquitted Army Pfc. Bradley Manning on Tuesday of aiding the enemy, but convicted him of violations of the Espionage Act for turning over a trove of classified data to the website WikiLeaks, in a case where the soldier has been portrayed variously as a traitor and as a whistle-blower.
The verdict by the judge, Col. Denise Lind, dismissed the prosecution’s argument that Manning released documents — in the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history — that he knew would end up in the hands of al Qaeda. The verdict also found Manning not guilty of unauthorized possession of information relating to national defense.
If he had been found guilty of aiding the enemy, he would have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Manning still faces the prospect of years, if not decades, behind bars. He was found guilty on 20 counts. The sentencing phase of the court-martial begins Wednesday, and Manning faces up to a maximum 136 years in prison.
Among the charges, Manning was found guilty of the theft of more than 700 U.S. Southern Command records, the possession of records pertaining to Afghanistan; the theft of State Department cables and the possession of classified Army documents.
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Bradley Manning verdict: cleared of ‘aiding the enemy’ but guilty of other charges
By Ed Pilkington. Bradley Manning, the source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of secret disclosures, faces a possible maximum sentence of 136 years in military jail after he was convicted on Tuesday of most charges on which he stood trial.
Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language. “Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty,” she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison sentence for Manning – on top of the three years he has already spent in detention – dawned.
The one ray of light in an otherwise bleak outcome for Manning was that he was found not guilty of the single most serious charge against him – that he knowingly “aided the enemy”, in practice al-Qaida, by disclosing information to the WikiLeaks website that in turn made it accessible to all users including enemy groups.
Lind’s decision to avoid setting a precedent by applying the swingeing “aiding the enemy” charge to an official leaker will invoke a sigh of relief from news organisations and civil liberties groups who had feared a guilty verdict would send a chill across public interest journalism.
The judge also found Manning not guilty of having leaked an encrypted copy of a video of a US air strike in the Farah province of Aghanistan in which many civilians died. Manning’s defence team had argued vociferously that he was not the source of this video, though the soldier did admit to the later disclosure of an unencrypted version of the video and related documents. Read more from this story HERE.