TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2013—In a military court-martial Bradley Manning, 25-year-old Army private, was acquitted of aiding the enemy by giving thousands of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. He was convicted on multiple other counts. Manning requested that a judge decide his fate rather than a jury. Today, after three days of deliberation, Judge Col. Denise Lind released the decision.
The charge of aiding the enemy, of which Manning was acquitted, carried a possible sentence of life without parole. It was the most serious of 21 counts. He was convicted of five espionage counts, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge, and several other military infractions. His sentence hearing will begin Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Manning pleaded guilty to reduced versions of some charges. He now faces up to 20 years in prison. However, prosecutors pursued the original eight federal Espionage Act violations, five federal theft accounts, and two federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violations. Each of these if punishable by up to 10 years; the five military counts of violating a lawful general regulation are each punishable by up to two years.
Prior to the verdict, Manning admitted to sending hundreds of thousands of private documents to WikiLeaks. He sent these documents in 2010 while working in Army Intelligence in Iraq. Much of this material was published by WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors argued that Manning knew the classified material would be seen and utilized by terrorist, and that Manning was simply pursuing fame or infamy. Although Manning did not testify during the trial, he had earlier explained that he wanted expose the American Military’s “bloodlust,” disregard for human life, and dishonest diplomacy. He claimed that the material, which he selected carefully, would not cause possible harm to troops. His attorney portrayed him as a well-intentioned whistleblower.
According to legal analysts, convicting Manning would set a new precedent in prosecuting those who leads U.S. secrets. After all, Manning did not actually share the information directly to an enemy of the U.S., and three years later, the effects of Manning’s leaks are still being debated. Manning’s supporters worry that this precedent will discourage future whistleblowers of the government’s wrongdoings.
The videos leaked by Manning include military attacks and diplomatic corps meetings. From the information Manning leaked, it was revealed that between 2004 and 2009 there were 109,032 “violent deaths” recorded in Iraq—including 66,081 civilians—which is 15,000 more than reported.
Prosecutors have claimed that Navy SEALs, in raiding Osama Bin Laden’s compound Pakistan, found copies of WikiLeaks documents provided by Manning.