Bradley Manning verdict: cleared of ‘aiding the enemy’ but guilty of other charges
31 July 2013
Bradley Manning, the source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of secret disclosures, faces a possible maximum sentence of 136 years in military jail after he was convicted on Tuesday of most charges on which he stood trial.
Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language. “Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty,” she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison sentence for Manning – on top of the three years he has already spent in detention – dawned.
The one ray of light in an otherwise bleak outcome for Manning was that he was found not guilty of the single most serious charge against him – that he knowingly “aided the enemy”, in practice al-Qaida, by disclosing information to the WikiLeaks website that in turn made it accessible to all users including enemy groups.
Lind’s decision to avoid setting a precedent by applying the swingeing “aiding the enemy” charge to an official leaker will invoke a sigh of relief from news organisations and civil liberties groups who had feared a guilty verdict would send a chill across public interest journalism.
The judge also found Manning not guilty of having leaked an encrypted copy of a video of a US air strike in the Farah province of Aghanistan in which many civilians died. Manning’s defence team had argued vociferously that he was not the source of this video, though the soldier did admit to the later disclosure of an unencrypted version of the video and related documents.
Lind also accepted Manning’s version of several of the key dates in the WikiLeaks disclosures, and took some of the edge from other less serious charges. But the overriding toughness of the verdict remains: the soldier was found guilty in their entirety of 17 out of the 22 counts against him, and of an amended version of four others.
The guilty verdicts included seven out of the eight counts brought under the Espionage Act. On these counts, Manning was accused of leaking the Afghan and Iraq war logs, embassy cables and Guantánamo files “with reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the US or the advantage of any foreign nation”. The 1917 act has previously been reserved largely for those who engage in spying as opposed to leaking; the seven convictions under the act are likely to be seen as a major stepping up of the US government’s harsh crackdown on whistleblowing.
Manning was also found guilty of “wrongfully and wantonly” causing to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the US, “having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accesible to the enemy”. That guilty ruling could still have widest ramifications for news organisations working on investigations relating to US national security.
The verdict was condemned by human rights campaigners. Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy, Widney Brown, said: “The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.
“Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing – reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government. You investigate and prosecute those who destroy the credibility of the government by engaging in acts such as torture which are prohibited under the US Constitution and in international law.”
Ben Wizner, of the American Civil LIberties Union, said: “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.
“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.”
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, said in a statement from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he is sheltering from extradition to Sweden on suspicion of sex crimes, that the verdict set a “dangerous precedent” and was an “example of national security extremism”.
Photo: John Kerry, US Secretary of State.
During 1968–1969 Kerry served an abbreviated four-month tour of duty in South Vietnam as officer-in-charge (OIC) of a Swift Boat. For that service, he was awarded combat medals that include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Securing an early return to the United States, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War in which he served as a nationally recognized spokesman and as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. He appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs where he deemed United States war policy in Vietnam to be the cause of “war crimes.”