Pfc. Bradley Manning has been found not guilty on the charge of aiding the enemy, though he is still guilty of multiple violations of the Espionage Act that could lead to decades in prison, the The New York Times reports.
Bradley Manning’s sentencing procedures to begin tomorrow
Manning had already admitted to releasing information to WikiLeaks, including classified embassy cables, field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, video showing U.S. airstrikes that killed civilians, and more, but the Federal government decided to pursue the more serious charge of ‘aiding the enemy,’ which would have carried a life sentence. Manning could still face more than 100 years in prison if handed maximum sentences on all of the remaining charges during sentencing procedures slated to begin tomorrow.
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The government’s argument was that Manning had provided classified information regarding U.S. defense to a group that he knew would publish it for the world to see. Since the U.S. has enemies in the world, the prosecution claimed that this amounted to intentionally aiding the enemy. To prove their case, prosecutors documented Manning’s training in regarding the importance of safeguarding classified information before he became an intelligence analyst.
This rationale has been heavily criticized as overly broad, because it would make the disclosure of almost any classified information punishable with a life sentence and create a powerful chilling effect on whistleblowers. There have also been concerns that this charge could be levied against independent journalists by calling their credentials and intentions into question and impeding on freedom of the press.
“He was a traitor, a traitor who understood the value of compromised information in the hands of the enemy and took deliberate steps to ensure that they, along with the world, received it,” said Chief Prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Bradley Manning approaching mainstream newspapers
Manning says that he approached mainstream newspapers including the Washington Post and The New York Times before sending the information to WikiLeaks, but that neither paper had been interested in the story at the time (though both covered the information extensively after WikiLeaks published it).
Manning has been portrayed as both a traitor and a hero from different groups, and the two-month trial has served as a focal point for an ongoing national debate on the relative importance of national security, governmental transparency, and the role of the press in exposing government wrongdoing.