Former US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning,accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks,has been acquitted of providing aid to the enemy,but was convicted of several counts of espionage.
Army Judge Col Denise Lind found the 25-year-old Army private guilty of espionage charges,which could result in a sentencing of 136 years behind prison.
Manning’s attorney,David Coombs said he was pleased by the verdict,but signaled that the decisive moment will come during the sentencing phase of the court-martial,which opens Wednesday and could last several weeks.
Bradley Manning had previously accepted responsibility for providing classified information to WikiLeaks,actions covered by ten of the 22 charges.
Military judge Colonel Denise Lind found him guilty of 20 of those 22 charges.
“We won the battle,now we need to go win the war,” Coombs said following today’s verdict.
“Today is a good day,but Bradley Bradley is by no means out of the fire,” he said to dozens of emotional supporters outside of the Fort Meade,Maryland military courtroom.
Coombs expressed subdued optimism going into the expected month-long sentencing phase of the court martial that will determine how long Bradley Manning will remain in confinement The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists said the case has become emblematic of US authorities’ aggressive crackdown on leaks of secret information.
“While Manning was not convicted of the most serious charge,we’re still concerned about the chilling effect on the press,especially on reporters covering national security issues,” said Joel Simon,executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“This aggressive prosecution has sent a clear message to would-be leakers,” he added.
However,Congressman Howard P “Buck” McKeon,Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee,said justice has been served.
“Bradley Manning endangered the security of the United States and the lives of his own comrades in uniform when he intentionally disclosed vast amounts of classified data.
His conviction should stand as an example to those who are tempted to violate a sacred public trust in pursuit of notoriety,fame,or their own political agenda,” McKeon said.
A similar remark was made by Congressmen Mike Rogers and Charles Ruppersberger,who are Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence,noting Manning harmed US national security,violated the public’s trust,and now stands convicted of multiple serious crimes.
“There is still much work to be done to reduce the ability of criminals like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden to harm our national security.
The House Intelligence Committee continues to work with the Intelligence Community to improve the security of classified information and to put in place better mechanisms to detect individuals who abuse their access to sensitive information,” he said.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called the US verdict an example of national security extremism.
“Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes,sparked revolutions and induced democratic reform,” Assange said and alleged that the Obama administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers,intent onweakening freedom of the press.
Nathan Fuller,a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network,which advocates for the whistle blower said he is relieved for him that he was not convicted of the aiding-the-enemy charge “But I am depressed for Bradley that he still faces decades in jail after being found guilty of all these charges,” he said.
Criticizing the verdict,Amnesty International said 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,” it said.
“While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts,we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way.
Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform,” the family of Manning in a statement.