On Tuesday, a military judge rejected the government’s argument that Pfc. Bradley Manning “aided the enemy” when he released thousands of documents to Wikileaks to publish on the internet, but he could still face a 136 year sentence.
While the prosecution initially thought to get a charge of “aiding the enemy,” it was not necessary to show that Manning’s intentions were to deliver the information to the enemy, but to show that he knew it was possible, it appears that the military judge, Col. Denise R. Lind, was not convinced of this charge.
Several months ago, Manning pleaded guilty to ten criminal counts and gave an explanation for his actions. According to Manning he wanted the world to know the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In his anguished state, he used his job as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad to download onto a CD hundreds of thousands of classified documents and a few videos of which one he said was troubling because it showed “delightful bloodlust.”
Some believe this initial move on Manning’s part was smart because it showed he was taking ownership for what he did and making the government’s charges appear excessive.
Even though Pfc. Manning dodged the charge of “aiding the enemy,” he was leveled with six counts of violating the espionage act of 1917, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge and several military offenses which could bring 136 years in prison. Sentencing for these charges are scheduled to begin on Wednesday.
Experts say that the sentencing phase may last for weeks because the military has no sentencing guidelines or minimum sentences in its justice system and Private Manning’s appeals could go on for years.
While advocates of freedom of the press, open government, and others who believe Manning is a hero, celebrate the victory over the “aiding the enemy” charge, many are still concerned with the other charges and the statement the charges are sending to others who might consider becoming a “whistle-blower.”
“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,” said Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, adding, “Whistle-blowers always know they are taking risks, and the more they reveal the bigger the threat is against them.”
Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor who testified in Private Manning’s defense lauded the judge for her decision not to charge Manning with “aiding the enemy” which was the most serious charge against him and would have brought a life sentence. The judge’s decision also thwarted an assault on investigative journalism and the free press in the area of national security.
Benkler also stated that the amount of time Manning still may face in prison “is still too high a price for any democracy to demand of its whistle-blowers.”
Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School does not believe Judge Lind will sentence Manning to 136 years. Fidell thinks the charges will be collapsed so that Manning does not “get punished twice for the same underlying conduct.”
While Manning has escaped the “aiding the enemy” charge he still has to face other charges.
By: Veverly Edwards