Bradley Manning Found Not Guilty Of Aiding Enemy In WikiLeaks Case
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The US Army soldier charged with providing classified data to WikiLeaks was found not guilty of aiding the enemy on Tuesday. This was the top charge in a 21-count indictment that could have carried a life sentence.
However, PFC Bradley Manning could still find himself behind bars for the rest of his life, as he was convicted on multiple counts including violation of the Espionage Act.
Manning had previously confessed to being WikiLeaks’ source of government documents, which reportedly included videos of US military airstrikes in Iraq in which civilians were killed, as well as hundreds of thousands of front-line incident reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In addition, the data provided by the 25-year-old Crescent, Oklahoma native to WikiLeaks included dossiers on men currently being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Col. Denise Lind, the judge presiding over the eight-week court martial of PFC Manning, which begin in June in Fort Meade, Maryland, announced the verdict on Tuesday after 16 hours of deliberation over three days.
Manning was convicted of five espionage counts, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge and other military infractions. He had previously pleaded guilty to a lesser version of the charges he was facing, and thus exposed himself to up 20 years in prison. However, the government pressed forward with the more serious versions of the charges.
He now faces up to 120 years in prison.
It was previously reported that, under article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Manning could have even faced the death penalty for “aiding the enemy” or knowingly giving top-secret “intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means.”
While prosecutors had to prove that Manning had “a general evil intent,” and that he knew that the classified information could be seen by the terrorist group Al Qaeda, legal experts had noted that the aiding the enemy conviction could set a precedent as Manning did not directly give the material to the terrorist group.
However, “Worldwide distribution, that was his goal,” Major Ashden Fein said during closing arguments last Friday. “Manning knew the entire world included the enemy… by giving intelligence to WikiLeaks, he was giving it to the enemy and specifically Al Qaeda.”
Manning reportedly said during a pre-trial hearing in February that he had leaked the material to expose what he called the US military’s “bloodlust,” and general disregard for human life. He reportedly said that he chose information that he believed would not directly harm the United States, and that the information was leaked to start a debate on military and foreign policy.
David Coombs, Manning’s attorney, portrayed Manning as a “young, naive but good-intentioned” soldier who was facing emotional turmoil related to the fact that he was a gay service member at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the US military.
Manning did not testify during his court-martial.
Manning’s ultimate sentence has yet to be determined, and is likely to be appealed. Coombs has said that he will call as many as 24 witnesses during the sentencing portion of the proceedings, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning.