Democracy Now! special live broadcast of the Bradley Manning verdict.
A military court has found Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history, not guilty of aiding the enemy -- a charge that would have carried a maximum sentence of life in prison. The military court convicted him of multiple counts of violating the Espionage Act, with the judge accepting some of the guilty pleas he made previously to lesser charges.
The Guardian reported that Manning was found guilty on five counts of theft and five counts of espionage, and that he potentially faces up to 130 years in jail.
Manning had already confessed to being WikiLeaks’ source for the files, which included videos of airstrikes in which civilians were killed, hundreds of thousands of front-line incident reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, dossiers on men being held without trial at the Guantánamo Bay prison, and about 250,000 diplomatic cables.
The verdict, following an eight-week trial, was handed down by Col. Denise Lind, the judge at Manning’s court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Manning already has spent three years in custody.
Manning, 25, has said he was disillusioned by an American foreign policy bent on “killing and capturing people” when he released the documents, including battlefield reports and diplomatic cables, in 2010.
Military prosecutors said Manning was not a whistle-blower but a traitor. They said Manning knew that enemies of the United States use WikiLeaks as a resource, and they said some of the documents he released wound up in the hands of al-Qaeda.
Hours before the verdict, Manning supporters demonstrated outside Fort Meade wearing “truth” T-shirts and waving signs proclaiming their admiration for the former intelligence analyst, the Associated Press reported.
“He wasn’t trying to aid the enemy,” said Barbara Bridges, 43, of Baltimore. “He was trying to give people the information they need so they can hold their government accountable.”
Dozens of journalists were admitted to the installation amid tight security, dogs trained to sniff out explosives searched their vehicles before they were escorted to a media room where the court proceedings were broadcast live on a screen.
The government’s pursuit of the charge of aiding the enemy under a theory that had not been used since the Civil War troubled civil libertarians as well as press-freedom advocates. They said the publication of secret defense information online could pave the way to expose any leaker to life in prison.
The government relied on a case from the Civil War to bring the charge. In that trial, a Union Army private, Henry Vanderwater, was found guilty of aiding the enemy when he leaked a Union roster to an Alexandria, Virginia newspaper. Vanderwater received a sentence of three months hard labor and was dishonorably discharged.
The verdict is "historic," said Elizabeth Goitein, a co-director of the non-partisan Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
"The judge rejected the government's argument that Manning, by virtue of his training as an intelligence officer, must have known that the information he disclosed was likely to reach al Qaeda," Goitein said in a written statement. "But she also ruled that Manning had reason to believe his disclosures could harm the U.S., even if that was not his goal."
Manning's sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EST on Wednesday.