Today Judge Denise Lind announced her verdict in the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the young solider under prosecution for his alleged leaking of classified documents to the Wikileaks organization: not guilty of ‘aiding the enemy.’ Manning was found guilty on lesser counts, for a total of 19 charges. Four of those had been plead to lesser infractions.
Though Manning manged to avoid the heaviest charge set against him, the book was tossed and squarely hit him.
According to early reporting, Manning was found guilty of five counts of espionage. The sentencing portion of this trial now begins. Both the prosecution and the defense are expected to call as many as two dozen witnesses.
The information that Manning is generally accepted to have handed to the controversial journalism outfit included a film clip now known under the moniker “Collateral Murder.” That video contains footage that includes the killing of innocents. The government, during the trial, chose to describe the clip as instead “actions and experiences of service members conducting a wartime mission.” Sometimes the odor of a situation is exacerbated by the sterility of the language used to describe it.
The trial of Manning has been part of a larger conversation on government secrecy and the right of the public to understand the workings of their elected and unelected officials. Regarding Manning specifically, the question of whether or not he “aided the enemy” by leaking military information has troubled many, as its implications may be far-reaching. If a whistleblower leaks information, and it is published, it is all but certain that the “enemy” will have access to it.
Given that, the leaking of any classified information regarding any topic near to national security could have led to painfully oppressive prison terms if Manning had been found guilty of the specific charge. This would discourage others from stepping forward when it was appropriate to do so. It is perhaps time to update the Espionage Act, under which Manning was found repeatedly guilty.
Manning is going to prison for a long, long time.
Top Image Credit: Patrick Slattery