A military judge Tuesday acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge the Army intelligence analyst faced for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables.
Manning was convicted on nearly all of the lesser charges considered by the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, in connection with the largest breach of classified material in U.S. history.
The suspense at the court martial session was limited because Manning previously pled guilty to 10 of the 22 counts he faced. Those charges carry a potential sentence of 20 years. The aiding-the-enemy charge can lead result in a sentence of up to life in prison or event to the death penalty, but the military did not seek capital punishment in Manning’s case.
If convicted on all charges apart from aiding the enemy, Manning faced a potential sentence of up to 154 years.
Manning did not dispute the fact that he sent WikiLeaks most of the material that led to the charges against him. However, his defense argued that some of the counts were legally flawed.
The Army intelligence analyst was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq at a forward operating base where he studied threats in a section of Baghdad. He’s been in custody since.
As soon as Wednesday, the court martial is expected to move into a sentencing phase. Prosecutors are expected to call witnesses demonstrating the harm caused by Manning’s disclosures, while the defense will seek to undercut that evidence and argue for leniency.
Lind ruled in January that Manning is entitled to a sentencing credit of nearly four months as a result of what she determined was unnecessarily harsh treatment the intelligence analysts received during his almost nine-month stay at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va.
Manning’s case is one of an unprecedented flurry of leak-related criminal prosecutions brought under the Obama administration. A total of seven such cases have been brought in the past four and a half years, more than double the number of such cases in all prior administrations combined.
The administration expressed no regret about its handling of the recent wave of cases until earlier this year, when extensive attention to the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records and a search warrant for a Fox reporter’s emails in a leak investigation led to a review of longstanding guidelines for such probes.
After an internal review, Attorney General Eric Holder changed DOJ policies to make it more difficult to access journalists’ work materials in instances where they are not the target of an investigation.
However, the case against Manning was prosecuted in the military justice system, which is separate from the civilian courts.http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/bradley-manning-trial-verdict-94923.html