FORT MEADE, Maryland — A US military judge convicted Bradley Manning of espionage Tuesday, leaving him facing a lengthy jail term despite clearing him on the most serious charge that he ‘aided the enemy.’
Well, it would have been ridiculous to convict Manning of aiding the enemy, since the Pentagon won’t even tell us who our enemies are; that’s secret!*
Colonel Denise Lind found Manning guilty of 20 of 22 counts related to his leaking of a huge trove of secret US diplomatic cables and military logs to the WikiLeaks website. …
If Lind decides to impose penalties in the higher ranges permitted under the charges, the now 25-year-old Manning could face a de facto life sentence of more than 100 years in jail.
Or 136, but who’s counting?
Manning faces 136 year MAX punishment on the crimes he was found GUILTY– sentencing begins tomorrow.
— Alexa O'Brien (@carwinb) July 30, 2013
Other good news from the verdict, according to Marcy Wheeler:
But the big news — and very good news — is that Manning is innocent of the aiding the enemy charge. That ruling averted a potentially catastrophic effect on freedom of speech in this country.
As ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner explained last year, the aiding the enemy charge threatened every single soldier who spoke publicly. “Article 104 is not limited to sensitive or classified information — it prohibits any unauthorized communication or contact with an enemy,” Wizner explained. “So, if the government is right that a soldier ‘indirectly’ aids the enemy when he posts information to which the enemy might have access, then the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over any service member who gives an interview to a reporter, writes a letter to the editor, or posts a blog to the internet.”
Moreover, a charge of “aiding the enemy” is not limited to military figures. Civilians, too, can be charged.
Nor would the charge have been limited to outlets like WikiLeaks. While in its closing arguments, the government tried hard to describe WikiLeaks as different from other news outlets, when asked in a hearing in March whether the government would have charged Manning with “aiding the enemy” had he leaked directly to the New York Times, they said he would.
There is one more significant detail in Lind’s ruling today. In addition to aiding the enemy, the one other charge she found Manning innocent of involved leaking a video of a civilian massacre in Garani, Afghanistan. While Manning admitted accessing the video, the government insisted he had leaked it months before Manning admitted to accessing it (and before forensic evidence showed he had). This claim — one Lind said they did not prove — was key to their claims that Manning had planned to leak to WikiLeaks from the start of his deployment to Iraq.
Thus, while Manning was found guilty on 19 charges, the government’s efforts to use this case to implicate WikiLeaks as a spy suffered a setback with this innocent ruling.
Could have been worse! Readers?
NOTE * Could be anybody, and in fact, probably is!
UPDATE Guardian live blog; the family’s statement:
We want to express our deep thanks to David Coombs, who has dedicated three years of his life to serving as lead counsel in Brad’s case. We also want to thank Brad’s Army defense team, Major Thomas Hurley and Captain Joshua Tooman, for their tireless efforts on Brad’s behalf, and Brad’s first defense counsel, Captain Paul Bouchard, who was so helpful to all of us in those early confusing days and first suggested David Coombs as Brad’s counsel. Most of all, we would like to thank the thousands of people who rallied to Brad’s cause, providing financial and emotional support throughout this long and difficult time, especially Jeff Paterson and Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network. Their support has allowed a young Army private to defend himself against the full might of not only the US Army but also the US Government.
UPDATE Here’s Charlie Savage summarizing the government’s theory of the case:
The government’s theory was that providing defense-related information to an entity that published it for the world to see constituted aiding the enemy because the world includes adversaries, like members of Al Qaeda, who could read the documents online.
Which does seem a little over broad. And by “over broad,” I mean “lunatic, in the same way that Caligula making his horse, Incitatus, Consul, was lunatic.”