Bradley Manning was found not guilty of “aiding the enemy” by a military judge on Tuesday, July 29. Private Manning became notable for his release of hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents. Manning released the documents to WikiLeaks for publication in 2009 and 2010.
Manning was arrested in May 2010. He was charged with 1 count of aiding the enemy, 9 counts of failure to obey a lawful order or regulation, and 24 counts of violating the General article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The last 24 charges included violations of the Espionage Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and Embezzlement and Theft of Public Money, Property or Records.
The total number of counts that Manning was charged with was 34. If he had been found guilty of “aiding the enemy” he could have potentially faced the death penalty.
While the court-martial judge, Col. Denise R. Lind, ruled that Manning was not guilty of the first charge brought against him by the United States, she did convict him of six counts of violating the Espionage Act and most of the other charges brought against him. He faces a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison. He is expected to receive a much shorter term.
There has been a very divisive debate about Manning’s actions. He shed a light on American military and diplomatic activities and showed the world how the government treats whistle-blowers.
Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told the NY Times, “We always hate to see a government employee who was trying to publicize wrongdoing convicted of a crime, but this case was unusual from the start because of the scope of his release. Whistle-blowers always know they are taking risks, and the more they reveal the bigger the threat is against them.”
Private Manning is just one of eight people to be charged with leaking information and whistle-blowing to the news media during the Obama administration. News reporters have been forced to testify against their sources, secret subpoenas for communications records have been issued, and others have been charged with violations of the Espionage Act including unauthorized “willful retention” of classified documents for the purpose of “unauthorized disclosure.”
Supporters of Private Manning’s actions plan to protest the verdict and show support for an open, honest government. Members of congress, both Republican and Democrat, praised the verdict claiming, “Justice has been served.”