Bradley Manning has been acquitted of the charge of aiding the enemy, which is a capital offense. However, Col. Denise Lind, the judge in the case, convicted him of 20 other charges of breaching the Espionage Act.
Manning was prosecuted for leaking 750,000 pages of classified documents, and a secret military videos to Wikileaks. This was the largest instance of a leak of secret government documents in US history. He faces up to a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison.
The sentencing part of the trial, which is being conducted at Fort Meade, Maryland, a facility which also houses the National Security Agency, could take several weeks. He has been already credited with 1,162 days of pretrial confinement, as well as an additional 112 days for the harsh treatment he received while being held in a brig at a Quantico Marine Corps base. Some of the possibilities are that the judge might not give him the maximum for each charge, or have the sentences served concurrently, instead of consecutively. Though Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy, he did plead guilty to three of the lesser charges out of the 20 he has been convicted of.
Manning’s treatment during his imprisonment was not only acknowledged by Lind; but also denounced by the UN. Manning was transferred soon after his initial arrest to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, and placed in suicide watch. After approximately two months he was moved to the Quantico Military base as a maximum security detainee under POI (prevention of injury) status. After Manning jokingly said that if he wanted to harm himself he could do it with his underwear and flipflops he was made to sleep naked. Other aspects of his confinement included solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and beratement by the guards on watch. On January 21, after Manning’s attorney complained about this treatment, the brig commander was relieved of that duty.
Juan Mendez, the special rapporteour on torture to the UN wrote after a 14 moth investigation that “the special rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence,” He added remarks about his concern for Manning’s physical and psychological welfare, as well as being disturbed by the fact that he was never allowed to meet Manning in private.
The Manning case, along with that of Edward Snowden have sent the Obama administration on a campaign to justify to the American public the intelligence gathering programs that the US government uses.
The Acquittal in two of the charges against Manning stems from the judge not believing that the information leaked had aided Al-Qaeda. Prosecutors had claimed that some of the materials were even found during the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound. Wikileaks has not admitted that Manning was the source of the documents.
Wikileaks has condemned the verdict and Julian Assange, the founder of that organization, has said “Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions and induced democratic reform,” he also decried the verdict as “an example of national security extremism.”
On the other hand,the leaks concerning this case did mention many foreign dissident informants sympathetic to the US, formerly only known by their online handles, by their full real name, and it has been argued that this has put the lives of these persons in danger of reprisals by the governments of their country of origin.
The fact that Bradley Manning has been acquitted of the most serious charge is a great relief to his supporters, while his conviction of 20 other charges, could potentially result in long imprisonment.