Wikileaks informant found not guilty of aiding enemy, convicted of espionage

[JURIST] Military Judge Denise Lind on Tuesday found Army Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] guilty of violations of the Espionage Act [18 USC § 794 et seq., text] for his disclosure of classified information to anti-secrecy organization, Wikileaks [website]. The judge, however, acquitted Manning of the more serious charge of "aiding the enemy." In 2010 Manning leaked more than 700,000 government documents, diplomatic cables and a controversial classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians and two Reuters journalists. The US Army [official website] formally charged Manning in July 2010, but his bench trial did not begin until last month at Forte Meade, Maryland, nearly three years after his initial arrest [JURIST reports]. Manning reportedly faces [BBC report] approximately 136 months to life in prison. The court is expected to sentence Manning on Wednesday. According to media sources, several advocacy groups have decried the verdict [AP report] as extremist while members of the US government have praised it as evenhanded.

Manning's case has sparked controversy across the globe since his arrest in 2010. In April the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces rejected a request by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to have access to court documents from Manning's case. That month the judge raised the burden of proof [JURIST report] such that the government was required to prove Manning "knowingly" aided al Qaeda. In February Manning pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to 10 of the 22 charges against him for providing classified materials to Wikileaks. Also in February the judge dismissed [JURIST report] a motion that argued for Manning's release based on a lack of a speedy trial. In January the judge ruled that prosecutors must prove that Manning knew he was aiding the enemy and that the treatment he received while in military custody was illegal and excessive [JURIST reports]. In November the judge accepted [JURIST report] a partial guilty plea to several of the minor charges against Manning. In August JURIST guest columnist Philip Cave argued [JURIST comment] that the lack of transparency in Manning's case undermines the validity of the eventual verdict. In June the judge ordered the prosecution to submit to her a number of files that were allegedly withheld from the defense during discovery. Prior to that, Manning was held in solitary confinement at the Quantico Marine Base brig for 112 days.

 

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