Pfc. Bradley Manning – charged with leaking a trove of government documents to the organization WikiLeaks – was found guilty today on several counts of espionage, theft and computer fraud. Manning faces a sentence, which will be decided tomorrow, of more than 100 years in prison.
However, Colonel Denise Lind, who presided over the military trial, found Manning not guilty of the most serious charge against him: that he engaged in purposefully “aiding the enemy,” which in this case was alleged to be al-Qaida. He was also found not guilty of leaking a video that showed a U.S. air strike in which many civilians died.
“While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform,” said Manning’s family in a statement to the Guardian.
Before the verdict was announced, there were significant concerns amongst civil libertarians, good governance groups and media watchdogs that finding Manning guilty of aiding the enemy would chill government whistleblowers into inaction. The Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement after the verdict was released, “We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free. If the government equates being a whistleblower with espionage or aiding the enemy, what is the future of journalism in this country?”
But military analysts saw the case as setting an important example for the digital age. "It's even more important to prosecute those crimes [today]," Gary Barthel, a former Marine Corps staff judge advocate, told USA Today. "With technology it's so much easier to disseminate that information. The military, the government has to take a very strong stand on it." Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department official, agreed, saying, "He put an enormous number of people in great danger. It's absurd to say that this is serving the public good."
So was the verdict in the Bradley Manning case fair? Here is the Debate Club’s take:
Trevor Timm Co-Founder and Executive Director of Freedom of the Press Foundation
Nathan Sales Professor at George Mason University School of Law.