Bradley Manning not guilty of ‘aiding enemy’
Soldier who gave files to Wikileaks to be sentenced on other charges tomorrow
Bradley Manning (25) is escorted out of court yesterday after Judge Colonel Denise Lind announced she would read her verdict today. Photograph: Reuters
A military judge today found US soldier Bradley Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy - the most serious charge he faced for handling over documents to WikiLeaks.
Military judge Col Denise Lind found him guilty of most of the other 20 criminal counts in the biggest breach of classified information in the nation’s history.
Manning was convicted of five espionage counts, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge and other military infractions.
The US government was pushing for the maximum penalty for what it viewed as a serious breach of national security, which included battlefield reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Anti-secrecy activists praised Manning’s action as shining a light on shadowy US operations abroad.
Army prosecutors contended during the court-martial that US security was harmed when the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website published combat videos of an attack by an American Apache helicopter gunship, diplomatic cables and secret details on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay that Manning provided the site while he was a junior intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
A crowd of about 30 Manning supporters had gathered outside Fort Meade ahead of the reading of the verdict.
His sentencing hearing is set to begin tomorrow in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Military prosecutors had called the 25-year-old defendant a “traitor” for publicly posting the information. They said Osama bin Laden obtained copies of some of the documents WikiLeaks published before he was killed in 2011.
Lawyers for Manning had argued he was well-intentioned but naive, hoping that his disclosures would provoke a more intense debate in the United States about diplomatic and military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than three years after Manning’s arrest in May 2010, the US intelligence community is reeling again from leaked secrets, this time exposed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has been holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport for more than a month despite US calls for Russian authorities to turn him over.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has surfaced again as a major player in the newest scandal, this time aiding Mr Snowden in eluding authorities to seek asylum abroad.
The cases of Manning and Snowden, a former contractor for a US spy agency, illustrate the difficulties of keeping secrets at a time the internet makes them very easy to share widely and quickly. In addition, more people are granted access to classified data.