Manning actions forced US to change data access protocol

Soldier who gave secret files to Wikileaks could face up to 136 years in prison

Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 18:50

As a military judge considered sentencing for convicted US soldier Bradley Manning, prosecutors argued that his leaks of classified information to the WikiLeaks website changed the way the military allowed intelligence analysts to access data.

Manning (25) yesterday escaped a life sentence with no parole at his court-martial when Judge Colonel Denise Lind acquitted him of aiding the enemy, the most serious of 21 criminal counts against him. But he still faces the possibility of 136 years in prison on 19 other charges.

The Army private first class was working as a low-level intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when he was arrested and charged in the biggest leak of classified information in US history - a trove of 700,000 battlefield videos, diplomatic cables and other files.

Following yesterday’s verdict, the court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, moved into the sentencing proceeding today with arguments by military prosecutors and Manning’s lawyers.

A prosecutor, Major Ashden Fein, said Manning’s leaks “have impacted the entire system” for granting defence analysts access to classified information.

Manning’s attorneys were expected argue that the Army private was not trying to jeopardise US national security. He did not testify during his trial or during the first day of his sentencing hearing.

The first prosecution witness, retired Brigadier General Robert Carr, said that allowing young analysts such as Manning to have access to classified information was “hugely important” to the US military.

In a court martial that stretched over two months, military prosecutors had argued that Manning became a “traitor” to his country when he handed over files to the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks website. The US government charged that the breach put national security at risk.

It also thrust WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange into the international spotlight. Observers said the verdict could have “a chilling effect” on WikiLeaks by making potential sources of documents in the United States more wary about handing over secret information.

It could also encourage the United States to seek to prosecute Assange for his role in publishing the information. Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for over a year to avoid extradition to Sweden, where two women have accused him of sexual assault. The activist says he fears Sweden might hand him over to U.S. authorities.

Army prosecutors contended during Manning’s court-martial that US security was harmed when WikiLeaks published videos of a 2007 attack by an American Apache helicopter gunship in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, diplomatic cables, and secret details on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

Manning supporters who gathered at Fort Meade said they were relieved he had been acquitted of the most serious charge, but thought the sentence he could face was excessive.