News Column

Manning Not Guilty of Aiding Enemy; Other Charges Stick

July 30, 2013
Bradley Manning

A U.S. military judge acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy Tuesday but convicted him of five counts of violating the espionage act.

The verdict, delivered at Fort Meade in Maryland, was came in shortly after 1 p.m., CNN reported. Col. Denise Lind, who heard the case without a jury at Manning's request, announced Monday she had decided on a verdict.

Manning, 25, who admitted releasing 700,000 secret documents to WikiLeaks, faced life in prison if he found guilty of aiding the enemy. He pleaded guilty to 10 lesser counts, which the judge accepted, CNN said.

The leak was the largest ever in U.S. history and Manning was the first leaker to be charged with aiding the enemy. His lawyer and supporters described him as a whistle blower.

Manning has been in custody since 2010.

The government argued providing defense-related information to an entity that published it for the world to see constituted aiding the enemy because the world includes adversaries such as al-Qaida who could read the documents online.

Manning in February admitted being WikiLeaks' source for the material, which included videos of a 2007 Baghdad airstrike and a 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan in which civilians were killed. The leaked information also included 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and 500,000 Army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs.

The disclosures were the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public -- much of it published by WikiLeaks or its media partners from April to November 2010.

Manning's guilty pleas carry a possible sentence of 20 years in prison.

The court-martial began June 3 and wrapped up with closing arguments last week.

The prosecution portrayed Manning as an "anarchist" and a traitor who wanted to "make a splash," knowing the leaked documents would end up in the hands of al-Qaida.

His defense lawyer portrayed him as a naive but well-intentioned humanistic soldier who wanted the released documents to spark debate about U.S. foreign policy and bring about change.

Defense attorney David Coombs said Manning was selective about which databases he released to avoid causing harm.

Before beginning her deliberations, Lind said the trial's sentencing phase would begin Wednesday.

Coombs said if Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, he will appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, which reviews certain court-martial convictions. After that would be the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, composed of five civilian judges appointed by the U.S. president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Coombs said he believes Manning's case could end up appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Manning supporters said Monday.

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Source: Copyright UPI 2013

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