Bradley Manning has been convicted of most of the criminal counts against him, including espionage, but has not been found guilty of aiding the enemy. That charge would have carried a maximum life sentence.
Manning was found guilty of espionage for leaking government secrets Tuesday. The verdict was handed down by a military judge. He was, however, acquitted of “aiding the enemy” – the most serious charge which carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.
He was convicted of all but two of the 22 criminal offenses for which he was charged and faces a total of 136 years behind bars. His sentencing hearing is set to begin on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old Army private had admitted to passing WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, war reports and a video showing a US helicopter killing civilians in Baghdad – the largest leak of classified information in the country’s history.
The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, deliberated for around 16 hours over three days before handing down the verdict at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning was also found guilty of theft and computer fraud charges.
Manning didn’t aid enemy
Manning had pleaded guilty to lesser offenses earlier this year that could have brought him 20 years behind bars. However, the prosecution continued to pursue the most serious charges, arguing that Manning’s actions directly harmed the US and benefited Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Lind was not convinced the prosecution had proven that Manning “aided the enemy,” saying while reading out the verdict that “on charge one, court finds you not guilty.”
Manning said he did not believe the information would endanger troops in Afghanistan and Iraq or harm national security. He said he wanted to shed light on the war in Iraq and trigger a debate about US militarism.
In February, Manning read a 35-page statement in an attempt to explain his reasoning behind leaking the material.
“I believe that if the general public … had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general,” he said.
WikiLeaks condemned the court’s ruling Tuesday, saying on its Twitter feed that the decision set a “very serious new precedent for supplying information to the press.”
Rights group Amnesty International also said the verdict would have an adverse effect on journalism.
“The verdict is certainly a chilling one for investigative journalism, for people who might come into information that they believe should be part of the public discourse,” said it’s director of law and policy, Michael Bochenek. “The message is that the government will go after you.”
dr/kms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)