Bradley Manning won't face life

SUBHEAD: Bradley Manning found not guilty of aiding the enemy as court-martial judge reads verdict.

By Staff on 30 July 2013 for the Washington Post -

Image above: Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, right, is escorted by military police as he arrives to hear the verdict in his military trial at Fort Meade in Maryland 7/30/13. From original article.

7:10 a.m. HST: Bradley Manning found not guilty of aiding the enemy as court-martial judge reads verdict. This story will update soon.

If found guilty of all charges, including aiding the enemy, private Bradley Manning would have face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The private is accused of providing 700,000 classified documents to transparency organization WikiLeaks.
Manning arrived at court to hear the verdict in his military espionage and aiding the enemy trial at Fort Meade Tuesday. Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy.

The planned announcement of the verdict follows an eight-week trial at Fort Meade in Maryland, where military prosecutors argued that Manning, 25, betrayed his oath and his country, and assisted al-Qaeda because the terrorist group was able to access secret material once WikiLeaks posted it.

Hours before the verdict, about two dozen Manning supporters demonstrated outside Fort Meade wearing “truth” T-shirts and waving signs proclaiming their admiration for the former intelligence analyst, the Associated Press reported.

“He wasn’t trying to aid the enemy,” said Barbara Bridges, 43, of Baltimore. “He was trying to give people the information they need so they can hold their government accountable.”

As dozens of journalists were admitted to the installation amid tight security, dogs trained to sniff out explosives searched their vehicles before they were escorted to a media room where the court proceedings were to be broadcast live on a screen.

The government’s pursuit of the charge of aiding the enemy under a theory that had not been used since the Civil War troubled civil libertarians and press-freedom advocates. They said the publication of secret defense information online could expose any leaker to life in prison and will chill press scrutiny of the military.

The government relied on a case from the Civil War to bring the charge: In that trial, a Union Army private, Henry Vanderwater, was found guilty of aiding the enemy when he leaked a Union roster to an Alexandria newspaper. Vanderwater received a sentence of three months hard labor and was dishonorably discharged.

Manning has pleaded guilty to a number of lesser charges, including unauthorized possession of information relating to the national defense.

The sentencing phase of the trial at Fort Meade outside Baltimore will begin Wednesday. With a conviction, the prosecution is expected to press the judge, Col. Denise Lind, to impose the maximum sentence. The government would present in a closed session of the court the classified damage assessments conducted by government agencies after the disclosures by WikiLeaks.

Defense attorney David Coombs would also be able to offer mitigating evidence about Manning’s motives and his state of mind when he turned the material over to the group.

Manning would be likely to serve any sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Manning, of Crescent, Oklahoma, enlisted in the Army in October 2007, hoping to fund his college education through the G.I. Bill. He trained as an all-source intelligence analyst at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and was stationed at Fort Drum, New York.

The military said Manning’s service was troubled from the start. He took more time than usual to pass basic training and struggled to connect with fellow soldiers. In October 2009, Manning’s unit was deployed to Iraq, where as part of his assignment he was able to access classified networks containing military and diplomatic documents.

In closing arguments last week, Maj. Ashden Fein, a military prosecutor, said Manning had disregarded the “sensitivity” of the material he leaked and “decided to release it to a bunch of anti-government activists and anarchists to achieve maximum exposure, the maximum exposure, and advance his personal quest for notoriety.”

Coombs has argued that Manning grew increasingly disturbed by the violence in Iraq and that his objective in copying secret documents while at a forward operating base there and leaking them to WikiLeaks was to “spark a worldwide discussion.” During the past two years of proceedings, Coombs has portrayed Manning as both naive and “well-intentioned.”

On Feb. 3, 2010, Manning turned over a trove of documents that became known as the War Logs to WikiLeaks. He attached a note: “This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war, and revealing the true nature of the 21st century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day.”

After that transmission, Manning developed a more robust relationship with WikiLeaks, passing on more than 700,000 documents and other material to the Web site, including video of an Apache helicopter engaging what the pilots believed were armed fighters in Baghdad. WikiLeaks called it “Collateral Murder.” Eleven people were killed in the incident, including an unarmed Reuters news agency photographer and his driver.

Manning developed an online relationship with a person believed to be Julian Assange, one of the founders of WikiLeaks.

“We conversed on a near daily basis, and I felt we were developing a friendship,” said Manning in a statement in March. “The conversations covered many topics and I enjoyed the ability to talk about pretty much anything, and not just the publications that the WLO (WikiLeaks) was working on.”

Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 and transferred to the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico in July 2010. He was kept alone in a windowless six-by-eight-foot cell 23 hours a day and forced while on suicide watch to sleep in a “suicide smock.”

In March 2011, after eight months of confinement, Manning quipped sarcastically that he could kill himself with the elastic of his underwear if he wanted to.

Lind ruled in January that any sentence the Army private receives should be reduced by 112 days because of his mistreatment in confinement.


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