BREAKING NEWS: Bradley Manning Found Not Guilty of Aiding the Enemy
July 30, 2013 Julie Tate / The Washington Post & Josh Gerstein / Politico
In a ruling that stands as a victory for whistleblowers and reporters, an Army judge has acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy by disclosing a trove of secret US government documents -- a striking rebuke to military prosecutors who argued that the largest leak in US history had assisted al-Qaeda. Manning was found guilty of more than 20 other charges but acquitted of an espionage act charge stemming from his leak of a video depicting US war crimes.
Bradley Manning Found Not
Guilty of Aiding the Enemy Julie Tate / The Washington Post
(July 30, 2013) -- An Army judge on Tuesday acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy by disclosing a trove of secret US government documents, a striking rebuke to military prosecutors who argued that the largest leak in US history had assisted al-Qaeda.
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, found Manning guilty of most of the more than 20 crimes he was charged with. She also acquitted him of one count of the espionage act that stemmed from his leak of a video that depicted a fatal US military airstrike in Farah, Afghanistan.
The eight-week trial offered a gripping account of Manning's transformation from a shy soldier who deployed to Baghdad as an intelligence analyst in 2009 to a mole for the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which disclosed more than 700,000 documents Manning gathered.
Had Manning been convicted of aiding the enemy, Manning would have faced a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. Civil libertarians saw the prospect of a conviction on that charge, which has not been used since the Civil War, as a dangerous precedent that could have would have sent an unmistakable message to would-be government whistle-blowers.
"The heart of this matter is the level of culpability," said retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He noted that Manning has already pled guilty to some charges and admitted leaking secret documents that he felt exposed wartime misdeeds. "Beyond that is government overreach."
If found guilty of all charges, including aiding the enemy, Manning would face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The planned announcement of the verdict follows an eight-week trial at Fort Meade in Maryland, where military prosecutors argued that Manning, 25, betrayed his oath and his country, and assisted al-Qaeda because the terrorist group was able to access secret material once WikiLeaks posted it.
Hours before the verdict, about two dozen Manning supporters demonstrated outside Fort Meade wearing "truth" T-shirts and waving signs proclaiming their admiration for the former intelligence analyst, the Associated Press reported.
"He wasn't trying to aid the enemy," said Barbara Bridges, 43, of Baltimore. "He was trying to give people the information they need so they can hold their government accountable."
As dozens of journalists were admitted to the installation amid tight security, dogs trained to sniff out explosives searched their vehicles before they were escorted to a media room where the court proceedings were to be broadcast live on a screen.
The government's pursuit of the charge of aiding the enemy under a theory that had not been used since the Civil War troubled civil libertarians and press-freedom advocates. They said the publication of secret defense information online could expose any leaker to life in prison and will chill press scrutiny of the military.
The government relied on a case from the Civil War to bring the charge: In that trial, a Union Army private, Henry Vanderwater, was found guilty of aiding the enemy when he leaked a Union roster to an Alexandria newspaper. Vanderwater received a sentence of three months hard labor and was dishonorably discharged.
FORT MEADE, Md. (July 30, 2012) -- A military judge Tuesday acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy -- the most serious charge the Army intelligence analyst faced for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables.
Manning was convicted on nearly all of the lesser charges considered by the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, in connection with the largest breach of classified material in US history.
The suspense at the court martial session was limited because Manning previously pled guilty to 10 of the 22 counts he faced. Those charges carry a potential sentence of 20 years. The aiding-the-enemy charge can lead result in a sentence of up to life in prison or event to the death penalty, but the military did not seek capital punishment in Manning's case.
If convicted on all charges apart from aiding the enemy, Manning faced a potential sentence of up to 154 years.
Manning did not dispute the fact that he sent WikiLeaks most of the material that led to the charges against him. However, his defense argued that some of the counts were legally flawed.
The Army intelligence analyst was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq at a forward operating base where he studied threats in a section of Baghdad. He's been in custody since.
As soon as Wednesday, the court martial is expected to move into a sentencing phase. Prosecutors are expected to call witnesses demonstrating the harm caused by Manning's disclosures, while the defense will seek to undercut that evidence and argue for leniency.
Lind ruled in January that Manning is entitled to a sentencing credit of nearly four months as a result of what she determined was unnecessarily harsh treatment the intelligence analysts received during his almost nine-month stay at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va.
Manning's case is one of an unprecedented flurry of leak-related criminal prosecutions brought under the Obama administration. A total of seven such cases have been brought in the past four and a half years, more than double the number of such cases in all prior administrations combined.
The administration expressed no regret about its handling of the recent wave of cases until earlier this year, when extensive attention to the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press phone records and a search warrant for a Fox reporter's emails in a leak investigation led to a review of longstanding guidelines for such probes.
After an internal review, Attorney General Eric Holder changed DOJ policies to make it more difficult to access journalists' work materials in instances where they are not the target of an investigation.
However, the case against Manning was prosecuted in the military justice system, which is separate from the civilian courts.
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