Army private convicted for spilling secrets to Wikileaks

Pfc. Bradley Manning acquitted of aiding the enemy, his most serious charge
Associated Press
Jul 30, 2013

U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge he faced — but was convicted of espionage, theft and other charges Tuesday, more than three years after he spilled secrets to WikiLeaks.

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

Manning stood at attention, flanked by his attorneys, as the judge read her verdicts. He appeared not to react, though his attorney, David Coombs, smiled faintly when he heard not guilty on aiding the enemy, which carried a potential life sentence.

When the judge was done, Coombs put his hand on Manning's back and whispered something to him, eliciting a slight smile on the soldier's face.

Manning was convicted on 20 of 22 charges, including a guilty plea the government accepted in February. He faces up to 136 years in prison. His sentencing hearing begins Wednesday.

Coombs came outside the court to a round of applause and shouts of "thank you" from a few dozen Manning supporters.

"We won the battle, now we need to go win the war," Coombs said of the sentencing phase. "Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire."

Supporters thanked him for his work. One slipped him a private note. Others asked questions about verdicts that they didn't understand.

Manning's court-martial was unusual because he acknowledged giving the anti-secrecy website more than 700,000 battlefield reports and diplomatic cables, and video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians in Iraq, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver.

In the footage, airmen laughed and called targets "dead bastards." A military investigation found troops mistook the camera equipment for weapons.

Besides the aiding the enemy acquittal, Manning was also found not guilty of an espionage charge when the judge found prosecutors had not proved their assertion Manning started giving material to WikiLeaks in late 2009. Manning said he started the leaks in February the following year.

Manning pleaded guilty earlier this year to lesser offenses that could have brought him 20 years behind bars, yet the government continued to pursue the more serious charges.

Manning said during a pre-trial hearing in February he leaked the material to expose the U.S military's "bloodlust" and disregard for human life, and what he considered American diplomatic deceit. He said he chose information he believed would not the harm the United States and he wanted to start a debate on military and foreign policy. He did not testify at his court-martial.

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.

He said Manning could have sold the information or given it directly to the enemy, but he gave it to WikiLeaks in an attempt to "spark reform" and provoke debate. Counterintelligence witnesses valued the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs at about $5.7 million.

Coombs said Manning had no way of knowing whether al-Qaida would access the secret-spilling website and a 2008 counterintelligence report showed the government itself didn't know much about the site.

The defense attorney also mocked the testimony of a former supervisor who said Manning told her the American flag meant nothing to him and she suspected before they deployed to Iraq that Manning was a spy. Coombs noted she had not written up a report on Manning's alleged disloyalty, though had written ones on him taking too many smoke breaks and drinking too much coffee.

The government said Manning had sophisticated security training and broke signed agreements to protect the secrets. He even had to give a presentation on operational security during his training after he got in trouble for posting a YouTube video about what he was learning.

The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, said Manning knew the material would be seen by al-Qaida, a key point prosecutor 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.

Some of Manning's supporters attended nearly every day of two-month trial, many of them protesting outside the Fort Meade gates each day before the court-martial. They wore T-shirts with the word "truth" on them, blogged, tweeted and raised money for Manning's defense. One supporter was banned from the trial because the judge said he made online threats.

Hours before the verdict, about two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the gates of the military post, proclaiming their admiration for Manning.

"He wasn't trying to aid the enemy. He was trying to give people the information they need so they can hold their government accountable," said Barbara Bridges, of Baltimore.

At a press conference Tuesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange blasted the verdict, calling it "a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism."

"This has never been a fair trial," Assange told journalists gathered at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

The court-martial unfolded as another low-level intelligence worker, Edward Snowden, revealed U.S. secrets about surveillance programs. Snowden, a civilian employee, told The Guardian his motives were similar to Manning's, but he said his leaks were more selective.

Manning's supporters believed a conviction for aiding the enemy would have a chilling effect on leakers who want to expose wrongdoing by giving information to websites and the media.

Before Snowden, Manning's case was the most high-profile espionage prosecution for the Obama administration, which has been criticized for its crackdown on leakers.

The WikiLeaks case is by far the most voluminous release of classified material in U.S. history. Manning's supporters included Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, who in the early 1970s spilled a secret Defense Department history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

The 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers showed that the U.S. government repeatedly misled the public about the Vietnam War.

Ellsberg said Tuesday that Manning's acquittal on aiding the enemy was more significant than his convictions on the other counts. He said a conviction would mean that most people wouldn't want to risk life imprisonment, or even execution — a permissible penalty under the law — for exposing government secrets.

"American democracy just dodged a bullet, a possibly fatal bullet," Ellsberg said. "I'm talking about the free press that I think is the life's blood of the democracy."

He said the free press is still under attack, though, by the Obama administration's aggressive prosecution of leakers.

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.

The Obama administration said the release threatened to expose valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America's relations with other governments.

Prosecutors said during the trial Manning relied on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for guidance on what secrets to "harvest" for the organization, starting within weeks of his arrival in Iraq in late 2009.

Federal authorities are looking into whether Assange can be prosecuted. He has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex-crimes allegations.

 

Comments

AJ Oliver

I've seen and read a number of these allegedly "secret" leaked materials. In every single case, they contain information that the US people (and others) have every right to know. The national security state classifies pretty much everything.
Can any of you show me a single example of a Manning leak that harmed the US? If you cannot . . .
Manning is a hero. Shame on Obama, who promised to protect whistle blowers.

SamAdams

Obama has lied about just about everything under the sun. Please don't pretend you're surprised he also lied about protecting whistle blowers!

mikeylikesit

Obama is not an African lion, he's a lyin African..

EZOB

O'Bama & Hillary admittingly know very little about Beghazi or Military actions yet a low ranking PFC knows enough to jeopordize our whole country. I sure am not defending Him, I just find it real hard to believe He knew anything real important.

grumpy

I have no idea what Manning "knows" or doesn't know, as a private. Nor do I know what information he had access to. He gave up hundreds of thousands of reports, Same for orders, and how things were done. I have not followed it after I read of the scope of the amount of info he gave up. It would come down to key word searches and guessing what was given up.

Does the People have a right to all that raw info? If it was a business I would say no. But this is gov't. Yet again this is crap that may hurt the US if someone can configure it and see how we do things. Glad it is not up to me to decide.

four

An american trader. Treason.

Contango

The American people don't have a "need" or the "right" to know about such information about how their tax dollars are being used for drone strikes in Yemen used to kill innocent men, women and children?

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/...

If anyone is wondering why many in the world hate the U.S. here's the place to begin: CIA.

Contango

Manning was a private, Snowden was a short time contractor.

It seems odd that these two low level bureaucrats can cause such panic in our national security.

Makes ya wonder what's goin' on at the higher levels of the U.S. intelligence pyramid.

BULLISDEEP's picture
BULLISDEEP

Private First Class and private are not the same, plus there is also private E-2 which is between both.
He was a SPEC-4 sometime before his arrest.

Contango

Re: "Private First Class and private are not the same,"

Understood. Still low on the intelligence community scale.

The point: It's all a distraction and a deflection from the people's right to know.

Kinda like the "Two-Minute Hate" in Oceania ("Nineteen Eighty-Four")

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0...

BULLISDEEP's picture
BULLISDEEP

They both worked as software programmers ,not so low .

Contango

Re: "not so low ."

Continue to focus on the minutia, the Political Ruling Class prefers it that way.

BULLISDEEP's picture
BULLISDEEP

Contango

Wed, 07/31/2013 - 7:25am

Re: "Private First Class and private are not the same,"

Understood. Still low on the intelligence community scale.

BTW rank has nothing to do with intelligence .
And you just offended millions of Americans with that comment.

Contango

Re: "BTW rank has nothing to do with intelligence ."

Our POTUS is certainly proof of that. :)

"As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

- H.L. Mencken (1920)

Get a grip: INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY.

Centauri

http://online.wsj.com/article/PR...
"Officials Disclosed Classified Information Alleged to Cause Death of Their Sons"

"As alleged in the complaint, the disclosures of classified information by Vice President Biden and then newly sworn-in Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that SEAL Team VI was responsible for the killing of Osama Bin Laden, put a "target on the backs" of the now fallen heroes and their families. Predictably, the Taliban retaliated by blasting the helicopter out of the air and killing all on board."

http://www.examiner.com/article/...
"The plaintiffs claim that certain disclosures of classified information by Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta regarding SEAL Team VI's responsibility for conducting a secret mission that ended the life of arch-terrorist Osama Bin Laden, placed "targets on the backs" of the servicemen and their families.

As a result of the "boasting" by Biden, Panetta and other Obama "sycophants" the Taliban retaliated by blasting the helicopter out of the sky and killing all on board, according to the plaintiffs."

Biden, Panetta and others released classified information that helped aid the enemy. Why have they not been charged?

kURTje

CIA/Reinhard Gehlen. T-4 Program/Prescott Bush. George Bush/CIA director. You godda wonder.

Centauri

Good points to bring up. The American people should use the internet to read more about CIA/Reinhard Gehlen. T-4 Program/Prescott Bush. George Bush/CIA director.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSA...

http://www.theguardian.com/world...
"The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism."

http://www.consortiumnews.com/ar...

Centauri

http://www.whatthefolly.com/2013...

What the American people should have been told. The United States acts like terrorists when to go to other countries and kill innocent civilians. The Reuters news staff members were killed to silence them so that they could not reveal the truth to the American people. Manning took an oath "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" Manning only exposed the domestic enemies who have hijacked our government. He exposed the crimes of these domestic enemies to the American people.

AJ Oliver

Mr/Ms Centauri is correct that high level govt. officials REGULARLY lead classified docs when it suits their purposes, yet are never prosecuted for it. Remember when the Cheney office leaked Valerie Plame's CIA identity? No real consequences (Bush immediately pardoned Scooter Libber. The Obama admin has done this too. The more leaks the better - keep 'em coming!!

goofus

AJ you are so wrong on history once again, Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury, Valerie Plame, a non-covert CIA operative was outed by Richard Armitage. Hard to out one who was flitting about Washington bragging she worked for the CIA. Please do the research before you opine

brassman

I see the leader of the foil hat brigade has been busy.

Contango

Re: "I see,"

And our ancestors fought a civil war against their oppressive king for what purpose?

Centauri

"I see the leader of the foil hat brigade has been busy."

I am always busy searching out the truth and exposing it to the people because the mainstream news media refuses or publishes propaganda.

Why should anybody believe a troll and flamer like yourself who also promotes a school levy? More money in your pocket by making others pay for your wants?

brassman
Tue, 07/30/2013 - 1:06pm
VOTE YES!

AJ Oliver

Sorry for the typos in the previous post - it should be "leak" vs "lead", and Scotter LIBBY.
Here is a link to Juan Cole's analysis of Manning's so-called crimes. It did have an impact on Egypt, Syria, Israel, etc.; but it's all information that we have a right to know.

AJ Oliver

Jeez, I'm having a bad day. Here is the link . .

http://www.juancole.com/2013/07/...

Centauri

AJ, Thank you for posting that link. American deserve to know the truth.

kURTje

Yes. Thanxs AJ.