After an eight-week trial, Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted today of aiding and abetting the enemy, but found guilty of several counts of espionage and theft. The acquittal disqualifies him from facing a sentence of life without parole, but he still faces a maximum prison sentence of more than 100 years. In May 2010, Manning released more than 700,000 confidential security documents to WikiLeaks while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq.
The Washington Post consulted Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who said that "the heart of this matter is the level of culpability." The Washington Times reported the opposing characterizations of Manning that were presented during the trial:
Defense attorney David Coombs portrayed Manning as a 'young, naive but good-intentioned' soldier who was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay service member at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. military.
The Lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, said Manning knew the material would be seen by al-Qaida, a key point prosecutors needed to prove to get an aiding the enemy conviction. Even Osama bin Laden had some of the digital files at his compound when he was killed.
If Manning had been convicted of aiding the enemy, he would have been the first to face that ruling since the Civil War, setting what could have been a highly unpopular precedent, especially with the rising movement of civil libertarians after National Security Agency surveillance programs were exposed by Edward Snowden.
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