Reuters: Military judge Col. Denise Lind on Tuesday found U.S. soldier Bradley Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy – the most serious charge he faced for handling over documents to WikiLeaks. She found him guilty of most of the other 20 criminal counts in the biggest breach of classified information in the nation’s history.
The U.S. 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, while anti-secrecy activists praised Manning’s action as shining a light on shadowy U.S. operations abroad.
Army prosecutors contended during the court-martial that U.S. 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.
The Guardian reports: Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language, writes Ed Pilkington from Fort Meade: “Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty,” she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison sentence for Manning on top of the three years he has already spent in detention dawned.
The one ray of light in an otherwise bleak outcome for the Army private was that he was found not guilty of the single most serious charge against him – that he knowingly “aided the enemy”, in practice al-Qaida, by disclosing information to the WikiLeaks website that in turn made it accessible to all users including enemy groups. Lind’s decision to avoid setting a precedent by applying the swingeing “aiding the enemy” charge to an official leaker will invoke a sigh of relief from news organisations and civil liberties groups who had feared a guilty verdict would send a chill across public interest journalism.
Lind also found Manning not guilty of having leaked an encrypted copy of a video of a US airstrike in the Farah province of Aghanistan in which many civilians died. Manning’s defence team had argued vociferously that he was not the source of this video, though the soldier did admit to later disclosure of an unencrypted version of the video and related documents.
The judge also accepted Manning’s version of several of the key dates in the WikiLeaks disclosures, and took off some of the edge from other less serious charges. But the overriding toughness of the verdict remains: the soldier was found guilty in their entirety of 17 out of the 22 counts against him, and of an amended version of four more.