U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, was acquitted of the most serious charge held against him - aiding the enemy. Manning was convicted on 19 of 21 charges, including espionage, theft, and computer-fraud charges.
Judge Army Col. Denise Lind deliberated for 16 hours over three days to reach a decision in a case that the whole world has been watching. Manning’s supporters applauded his actions as a whistleblower, but the U.S. government called him an “anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor,” according to the Washington Times.
Although Manning faces up to 136 years in prison for the 19 convictions, his lawyer, David Coombs, was visibly pleased after the not guilty verdict for aiding the enemy, which carried a potential life sentence without parole.
Coombs exited the courthouse to applauding supporters shouting “thank you.” Coombs responded, “We won the battle, now we need to go win the war,” in reference to sentencing. “Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire.”
Manning leaked 700,000 battlefield reports to WikiLeaks in February of 2010, but was found not guilty of one count of espionage that alleged he began giving material to the site in late 2009. In a pre-trial hearing in February, Manning stated that he leaked the documents to expose the U.S. military’s “bloodlust and disregard for human life” and what he considered American diplomatic deceit.
The sentencing phase of the trial began today.