Bradley-manning1
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted
of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge he faced — but was
convicted of espionage, theft and other charges Tuesday, more than three
years after he spilled secrets to WikiLeaks.


 

 

 

 

 

The judge, Army Col.
Denise Lind, deliberated for about 16 hours over three days before
reaching her decision in a case that drew worldwide attention as
supporters hailed Manning as a whistleblower. The U.S. government called
him an anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor.

Manning
stood at attention, flanked by his attorneys, as the judge read her
verdicts. He appeared not to react, though his attorney, David Coombs,
smiled faintly when he heard not guilty on aiding the enemy, which
carried a potential life sentence.

When the judge was done, Coombs
put his hand on Manning's back and whispered something to him,
eliciting a slight smile on the soldier's face.

Manning was
convicted on 19 of 21 charges, and he previously pleaded guilty to a
charge involving an Icelandic cable. He faces up to 136 years in prison.
His sentencing hearing begins Wednesday.

Coombs came outside the court to a round of applause and shouts of "thank you" from a few dozen Manning supporters.

"We
won the battle, now we need to go win the war," Coombs said of the
sentencing phase. "Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out
of the fire."

Supporters thanked him for his work. One slipped him
a private note. Others asked questions about verdicts that they didn't
understand.

Manning's
court-martial was unusual because he acknowledged giving the
anti-secrecy website more than 700,000 battlefield reports and
diplomatic cables, and video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that
killed civilians in Iraq, including a Reuters news photographer and his
driver.

In the footage, airmen laughed and called targets "dead
bastards." A military investigation found troops mistook the camera
equipment for weapons.

Besides the aiding the enemy acquittal,
Manning was also found not guilty of an espionage charge when the judge
found prosecutors had not proved their assertion Manning started giving
material to WikiLeaks in late 2009. Manning said he started the leaks in
February the following year.

Manning pleaded guilty earlier this
year to lesser offenses that could have brought him 20 years behind
bars, yet the government continued to pursue all but one of the
original, more serious charges.

Manning said during a pre-trial
hearing in February he leaked the material to expose the U.S military's
"bloodlust" and disregard for human life, and what he considered
American diplomatic deceit. He said he chose information he believed
would not the harm the United States and he wanted to start a debate on
military and foreign policy. He did not testify at his court-martial.

Coombs
portrayed Manning as a "young, naive but good-intentioned" soldier who
was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay service member at a
time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S.
military.

He said Manning could have sold the information or given
it directly to the enemy, but he gave it to WikiLeaks in an attempt to
"spark reform" and provoke debate. Counterintelligence witnesses valued
the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs at about $5.7 million.

Coombs
said Manning had no way of knowing whether al-Qaida would access the
secret-spilling website and a 2008 counterintelligence report showed the
government itself didn't know much about the site.

The
defense attorney also mocked the testimony of a former supervisor who
said Manning told her the American flag meant nothing to him and she
suspected before they deployed to Iraq that Manning was a spy. Coombs
noted she had not written up a report on Manning's alleged disloyalty,
though had written ones on him taking too many smoke breaks and drinking
too much coffee.

The government said Manning had sophisticated
security training and broke signed agreements to protect the secrets. He
even had to give a presentation on operational security during his
training after he got in trouble for posting a YouTube video about what
he was learning.

The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, said
Manning knew the material would be seen by al-Qaida, a key point
prosecutor needed to prove to get an aiding the enemy conviction. Even
Osama bin Laden had some of the digital files at his compound when he
was killed.

Some of Manning's supporters attended nearly every day
of two-month trial, many of them protesting outside the Fort Meade
gates each day before the court-martial. They wore T-shirts with the
word "truth" on them, blogged, tweeted and raised money for Manning's
defense. One supporter was banned from the trial because the judge said
he made online threats.

Hours before the verdict, about two dozen
demonstrators gathered outside the gates of the military post,
proclaiming their admiration for Manning.

"He wasn't trying to aid
the enemy. He was trying to give people the information they need so
they can hold their government accountable," said Barbara Bridges, of
Baltimore.

On its official Twitter account, WikiLeaks blasted the
verdict and the Obama administration, calling it "dangerous national
security extremism."

The court-martial unfolded as another
low-level intelligence worker, Edward Snowden, revealed U.S. secrets
about surveillance programs. Snowden, a civilian employee, told The
Guardian his motives were similar to Manning's, but he said his leaks
were more selective.

Manning's
supporters believed a conviction for aiding the enemy would have a
chilling effect on leakers who want to expose wrongdoing by giving
information to websites and the media.

Before Snowden, Manning's
case was the most high-profile espionage prosecution for the Obama
administration, which has been criticized for its crackdown on leakers.

The
WikiLeaks case is by far the most voluminous release of classified
material in U.S. history. Manning's supporters included Pentagon Papers
leaker Daniel Ellsberg, who in the early 1970s spilled a secret Defense
Department history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

The 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers showed that the U.S. government repeatedly misled the public about the Vietnam War.

The
material WikiLeaks began publishing in 2010 documented complaints of
abuses against Iraqi detainees, a U.S. tally of civilian deaths in Iraq,
and America's weak support for the government of Tunisia — a disclosure
that Manning supporters said helped trigger the Middle Eastern
pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring.

The Obama
administration said the release threatened to expose valuable military
and diplomatic sources and strained America's relations with other
governments.

Prosecutors said during the trial Manning relied on
WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for guidance on what secrets to
"harvest" for the organization, starting within weeks of his arrival in
Iraq in late 2009.

Federal authorities are looking into whether
Assange can be prosecuted. He has been holed up in the Ecuadorean
Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex-crimes
allegations.

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