It’s been more than three years since Bradley Manning released sensitive materials, including videos of airstrikes and hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, causing an international uproar. This afternoon, the 25-year-old Army private met his legal fate.
Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence officer who was branded as both a whistle-blower and a traitor after he sent 700,000 secret government documents to WikiLeaks, was acquitted Tuesday of aiding the enemy but convicted of other charges.
Manning was convicted of illegally releasing classified documents knowing they would be accessible to the enemy. Aiding the enemy was the most serious charge and carried a potential life sentence.
The verdict was handed down by Col. Denise Lind, the judge at Manning’s court-martial at Fort Meade, Md. Manning will be sentenced later.
Note, the six criminal charges come on top of 10 other charges to which Manning had already pleaded guilty.
Ian Johnston noted this morning that the commander of the Military District of Washington, currently Maj. Gen. Jeffery S. Buchanan, will have an opportunity to review and possibly reduce the sentence in Manning’s case, though there’s no reason to believe he will.
For what it’s worth, while the acquittal on “aiding the enemy” won’t make an appreciable difference when it comes to the duration of Manning’s sentence, it’s an important development in the larger context. The charge itself in a leak case is unprecedented, and as the New York Times’ Charlie Savage noted, this “could have significant long-term ramifications for investigative journalism in the Internet era.”