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Manning Guilty Of Spying, Fraud But Spared On 'Aiding Enemy' Charge

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (right) is escorted by military police as arrives to hear the verdict in his military trial at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland on July 30.

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (right) is escorted by military police as arrives to hear the verdict in his military trial at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland on July 30.

A U.S. military judge has convicted Army Private Bradley Manning of multiple espionage and fraud and theft counts but found him not guilty of the most serious charge facing the 25-year-old, that of "aiding the enemy."

Manning has been in detention since being accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified documents and some battlefield footage to WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

He faced a possible life sentence if convicted of aiding an enemy.

He was convicted on 20 other charges related to the espionage and digital thefts.

Manning's sentencing hearing was set to begin on July 31. He could face a combined maximum sentence of between 130 and 140 years in prison.

Manning's Defense

Manning has admitted to sending more than 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables, and other material, including battlefield video clips, to WikiLeaks while in Iraq in early 2010.

WikiLeaks published most of the material online.

The White House said the release threatened to expose valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America's relations with other governments.

In closing arguments last week, the defense said Manning was a naive whistle-blower who wanted to expose war crimes.

Prosecutors said he was an attention-seeking traitor.

At a pretrial hearing in February, Manning said he leaked the classified material to expose the U.S. military's "bloodlust" and disregard for human life.

He said he chose information he believed would not harm the United States.

Question Of Precedents

Advocates for whistle-blowers and transparency argued that Manning was simply giving the public information they needed to hold their government accountable. Free-press advocates said the charge of aiding the enemy set a dangerous precedent for investigative journalism.

WikiLeaks called the verdict "dangerous national security extremism."

Trevor Timm, co-founder and executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, a group dedicated to supporting journalism that brings transparency and accountability to government, told RFE/RL that the case represented "an attempt to send a signal to future whistle-blowers that leaking information to the press won't be tolerated."

"And it's a sad state of affairs," Timm said, "when somebody who wants to get information to the public in a quote-unquote crime that is nonviolent and did not cause any harm, that he still faces more than 100 years in prison."

The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders called the verdict a chilling warning to whistle-blowers and said it threatens the future of investigative journalism because intimidated sources might fall quiet.

But the chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee welcomed the verdict in a tweet that referenced the case of Edward Snowden, the leaker of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs.

"Justice was served today," Representative Mike Rogers (Republican-Michigan) said. "Pfc Manning (like Snowden) is a criminal who abused classified info, violated public trust, & harmed US security."

Biggest In History

The Manning-WikiLeaks case is the biggest release of classified material in U.S. history.

Manning's supporters included Daniel Ellsberg, who in the early 1970s spilled a secret Defense Department history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in a case known as the "Pentagon Papers."

The 7,000 pages showed that the U.S. government repeatedly misled the public about the Vietnam War.

Manning's two-month military trial was heard in Fort George G. Meade in Maryland.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, RFE/RL's Heather Maher, and NBC