Army Private First Class Bradley Manning was found not guilty on Tuesday morning on charges of knowingly aiding enemies of the U.S. by transferring 750,000 pages of military files to WikiLeaks, the Associated Press reported.
Manning was tried on 20 other criminal counts, and offered to plead guilty to most of them, but refused to say he helped the terrorist network al-Qaeda.
Manning requested that the judge, Colonel Denise Lind, have the responsibility of determining the verdict, as opposed to a military jury. His attorney, David Coombs, told the court during his closing argument on July 26 that Manning “He “was hoping to spark worldwide discussion” by leaking the information and shed light on U.S. military policy.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange defended Manning’s actions in an interview with CNN shortly before the verdict was released.
We call those types of people that are willing to risk — not be a martyr but risk being a martyr — for all the rest of us, we call those people heroes,” Assange told host Jake Tapper. “Bradley Manning is a hero.”
Update, 1:12 p.m. EST: The Guardian reported that Manning was found guilty on five counts of theft and five counts of espionage.
Update, 1:22 p.m. EST: The Guardian also reported that Manning faces up to 130 years in jail. His sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EST on Wednesday.
Update, 1:58 p.m. EST: Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released statements criticizing the guilty verdicts on the espionage charges against Manning. CCR has represented Assange as a client in the past.
“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,” ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project head Ben Wizner said in his organization’s statement. “Since Manning already plead 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.”
“We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free,” CCR’s statement read. “If the government equates being a whistleblower with espionage or aiding the enemy, what is the future of journalism in this country? What is the future of the First Amendment?”
Update, 6:20 p.m. EST: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has also released a statement condemning the charges against Manning.
“In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.”
Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that – or even claim that – a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.
The only ’victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.
The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.
The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.
The US first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. What part of ’no’ does Barack Obama fail to comprehend?”