Bradley Manning guilty of most charges but cleared of 'aiding the enemy'

Written by Edward Chester

July 30, 2013 | 19:46

Tags: #bradley-manning #guilty

Companies: #bit-tech #wikileaks

Bradley Manning, the source of a huge volume of US military information leaked via Wikileaks, has been found guilty for most of the charges levelled against him and faces a maximum jail sentence of more than 130 years.

Delivering the verdict, Colonel Denise Lind - the military judge presiding over the court martial - simply repeated the words "guilty, guilty, guilty..." in response to 21 of the 22 charges.

However, while Manning is likely to face a lengthy jail sentence, there was a small glimmer of hope as he was cleared of the most serious offence, that of 'aiding the enemy'. This charge was particularly controversial as it relied on the prosecution's inference that Manning indirectly aided the enemy, i.e al-Qaida, because he would have known that the leaked documents would be freely accessible once online. This logic was described as a 'novel legal interpretation' by the defence, and it seems that Denise Lind agreed.

What makes this interpretation so alarming, according to critics, is that had Manning provided the material to The New York Times for instance, he still would have been subject to prosecution under that understanding of the law, a scenario the prosecution freely admitted would be covered by their version of events. The implications for reporting, particularly on national security could have been profound.

While Manning was found guilty of 17 of the charges in their entirety, four were amended before a guilty verdict passed. These included a not-guilty verdict on leaking an encrypted copy of a video of a US air strike during which many civilians died. Instead Manning admitted to later leaking an unencrypted version of the video.

Lind also accepted Manning's version of events regarding several key dates regarding the leaks, which took the sting out of some of the less serious charges.

Although found guilty of the charges there is still the sentencing phase of the court martial to come, which will see the prosecution call at least 13 witnesses to emphasise the damage done by the US soldier. Meanwhile the defence is likely to emphasise Manning's motives as a mitigating factor. The ultimate decision will be down to Judge lind. The sentencing phase commences tomorrow.
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