Bradley Manning, who orchestrated the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history, has been acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, which carried a possible sentence of life imprisonment.
In all, Manning faces a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison.
Manning previously pleaded guilty to 10 of the lesser offenses and faced up to 20 years.
“The government is saying, keep your reservations and morals to yourself or end up like Bradley,” Robert Caruso, a former assistant command security manager in the Navy and consultant, told Business Insider. “The government is coming down hard on leakers.”
Manning, who served as a junior intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010, gave 700,000 military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks to “spark a domestic debate on the role of our military and foreign policy in general.”
The documents included videos of airstrikes that killed civilians, a trove of front-line incident reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, dossiers on Guantánamo Bay detainees, and about 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.
*Here’s a breakdown of the charges:
— Alexa O’Brien (@carwinb) July 30, 2013
‘Aiding the enemy’
Prosecutors painted Manning as an anarchist traitor who recklessly leaked classified information with “a general evil intent,” arguing that Manning knew the classified material would be seen by the terrorist group al-Qaida via the Internet.
The government previously stated that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden obtained copies of some documents published by WikiLeaks before he was killed by U.S. special forces in 2011.
defence attorney David Coombs argued that all modern cases regarding aiding the enemy involved military members who gave the enemy information directly.
Some experts, including Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler, argued that the aiding the enemy charge in Manning’s case “will cast a long shadow on national security journalists and their sources.”
That’s because the prosecution said that it would have made the same case if Manning had leaked the documents to The New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal.
Here’s how Benkler broke it down:
The source gives materials to the journalist; the journalist publishes; the enemy reads the publication and, presto, the source is guilty of the offence of “aiding the enemy”.
Last month Coombs described Manning as a ”young, naive, but good-intentioned” soldier whose struggle to fit in as a gay man in the military made him feel he ”needed to do something to make a difference in this world.”
From July 2010 to April 2011 he was held as a maximum custody detainee at Quantico marine base in Virginia, where he sat in a fluorescent-lit 6-by-8-foot cell with no window or natural light for 23 hours per day — guards checked on him every five minutes — and was stripped naked at night because authorities deemed the elastic on his underwear could be used to harm himself.
In response to Manning’s pre-trial confinement, more than 250 of the most eminent U.S. legal scholars sent a letter to President Obama in protest of Manning’s treatment; UN special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Mendez called it “cruel, inhuman and degrading”; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief spokesman, P.J. Crowley, resigned after he publicly denounced the treatment as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
In January Lind ruled that any sentence should be reduced by 112 days because of his mistreatment in confinement.
Editor’s note: Coincidentally, the U.S. Constitutional Congress enacted the very first whistleblower protection law on July 30, 1778.
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