The Bradley Manning verdict has been passed down by Judge Lind. Manning has been found not guilty of the most serious charge levied against him; aiding the enemy. However he has been found guilty on five counts of violating the espionage act, five charges of theft and several other charges. Ultimately Manning was found guilty in 17 out 22 counts. The prospects for his future in prison remain bleak. Altogether the charges carry a maximum sentence of 130 years. Manning also got 112 days removed from any potential sentence as a pre-trail agreement with Judge Lind because of the harsh nature of his incarceration in 2010 and 2011. Manning was forced to strip naked and was held in conditions that the UN declared as torture.
Manning has repeatedly proclaimed that the releasing of over 700,000 documents to Wikileaks was to raise American awareness about the atrocities he witnessed overseas and spur lively discourse regarding the role of our military in foreign countries. There wasn’t a malicious intent involved with the leaks, especially none warranting a charge of aiding the enemy. Ultimately the arguments promulgated by the federal prosecutors weren’t enough to convict Manning of aiding terrorists. The aiding the enemy charge, if found guilty, could have landed Manning in prison for life.
The prosecutors tried to argue a case from 1863, during the Civil War, in order to pin the “aiding the enemy” charge on Manning. They cited Henry Vanderwater, a union soldier, who gave a newspaper a command roster that was later published. Prosecutors said that Manning’s case closely mirrored the Vanderwater’s. He was later convicted and served 3 months hard labor and was dishonorably discharged.
Although Manning faces a considerable amount time in prison, civil liberties advocates can breathe a sigh of relief regarding the aiding the enemy decision. The facts just were strong enough to make such a far reaching assumption. The charge was fallacious and unwarranted. Unfortunately Manning’s fate still hangs in the balance. He should’ve been protected under international whistle-blower laws. Given the fact that he wasn’t still means the United States government has launched concerted effort against anyone who leaks classified documents exposing real crimes.
In a statement to The Guardian, Manning’s family issued a statement regarding Judge Lind’s decision to drop the aiding the enemy charge:
“While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform.
We want to express our deep thanks to David Coombs, who has dedicated three years of his life to serving as lead counsel in Brad’s case. We also want to thank Brad’s Army defense team, Major Thomas Hurley and Captain Joshua Tooman, for their tireless efforts on Brad’s behalf, and Brad’s first defense counsel, Captain Paul Bouchard, who was so helpful to all of us in those early confusing days and first suggested David Coombs as Brad’s counsel. Most of all, we would like to thank the thousands of people who rallied to Brad’s cause, providing financial and emotional support throughout this long and difficult time, especially Jeff Paterson and Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network. Their support has allowed a young Army private to defend himself against the full might of not only the US Army but also the US Government.”
The ACLU released a statement following the verdict claiming the government is using the Manning case to intimidate future whistle-blowers:
“While we’re relieved that Mr. Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Since he already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information – which carry significant punishment – it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”
Bradley Manning’s sentence hearing will begin tomorrow.