July 30, 2013 3:29 pm
Updated: July 30, 2013 5:58 pm

What is the impact of Bradley Manning’s verdict?


TORONTO – U.S. Army private Bradley Manning has been acquitted of aiding the enemy but convicted of espionage and theft for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks.

The former intelligence analyst was convicted on six espionage counts, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge and other military infractions.

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Manning originally faced 21 charges for sending more than 700,000 classified government documents to the anti-secrecy website. If the conviction had included the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, Manning faced a possible life sentence plus 154 years.

Manning’s sentencing hearing is set to begin Wednesday.

During the trial, Manning’s lawyer said his client was young and naive and only wanted to enlighten the public about the bitter reality of America’s wars when he gave a massive amount of classified material to WikiLeaks.

The material WikiLeaks began publishing in 2010 documented complaints of abuses against Iraqi detainees, a U.S. tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and America’s weak support for the government of Tunisia – a disclosure that Manning supporters said helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring.

U.S. military judge Denise Lind deliberated for about 16 hours over three days before reaching her decision in a case that drew worldwide attention. Supporters hailed Manning as a whistleblower. The U.S. government called him an anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor.

Many critics pondered the impact of the Manning verdict while some argued the verdict could test the theory that someone can aid the enemy without meaning to.

On Twitter, Wikileaks said Manning’s conviction has “very serious new precedent for supplying information to the press” and describes his espionage convictions as “dangerous national security extremism from the Obama administration.”

Bradley Manning’s convictions today include 5 courts of espionage. A very serious new precedent for supplying information the press.

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 30, 2013

Manning faces 136 years on the charges he has been convicted of today. Dangerous national security extremism from the Obama administration.

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 30, 2013

In a blog post, historian Dr. Tim Stanley argued Manning was rightly found guilty of “betraying his country.”

“He’s a boy who probably didn’t belong in the army, should’ve been identified as a potential problem early on, should never have been given access to military intelligence, went slightly crazy on the power his access gave him, and then shared what he knew with the world. It’s a tragic story rather than a damning one,” wrote Stanley in an op-ed for The Telegraph. “But make no mistake – Bradley did a bad, bad thing.”

Jim Michaels of USA TODAY wrote that Manning’s trial challenged the traditional definition of what defines a traitor:

“The classic case of a mole leaking sensitive documents to a foreign country has been replaced by a junior analyst who can release troves of information to the public with a few key strokes.”

Marcy Wheeler of Salon.com said Manning’s verdict “averted a potentially catastrophic effect on freedom of speech in this country.”

Huffington Post’s Norman Soloman wrote that many have come to see Manning as personification of moral courage.

“No verdict handed down by the military judge can change the moral verdict that has emerged from people all over the world,” he wrote.

Others who considered Manning wrongly charged had a measured response.

According to The Associated Press, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist, commentator and former civil rights lawyer who first reported former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of U.S. surveillance programs, said Manning’s acquittal on the charge of aiding the enemy represented a “tiny sliver of justice.”

Amnesty International wrote that today’s verdict shows that the U.S. government’s priorities are “misplaced.

“The government’s priorities are upside down,” said Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy.  “The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.”

In a post TuesdayThe Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez said that the case overall “exposed” another issue and has raised serious questions about the military justice system that he has been through.

“The trial itself has often had an Alice in Wonderland feel with its own bizarre and sometimes inexplicable logic,” he wrote. “The military initially refused to release court documents and the judge would instead read for hours from dense rulings that were almost impossible to follow. Late in the pre-trial proceedings, and under threat of a lawsuit from media outlets in civilian court, the Army relented and began releasing some documents but often in a sporadic and ad hoc manner. When they did arrive they would sometimes be redacted of even basic information.”

© 2013 Shaw Media

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