Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was branded both a whistle-blower and a traitor after he sent 700,000 secret government documents to WikiLeaks, was acquitted Tuesday of aiding the enemy but convicted of most other charges.
Manning was convicted of 20 of the remaining 21 counts, including seven dealing with espionage. He was found guilty of leaking intelligence knowing it would be accessible to the enemy, releasing classified information and disobeying orders.
Aiding the enemy was the most serious charge and carried a potential life sentence.
The judge in Manning’s court-martial, Col. Denise Lind, found that Manning had “no intent” to provide the enemy with classified information but was “negligent” in releasing the documents.
“Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire,” Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, told supporters.
Supporters cheered, “Hip hip, hooray!” Coombs concluded: “This is a huge, huge victory.”
Manning himself showed no reaction during the reading of the verdict. He showed a slight smile after court was dismissed.
The charges of which Manning was convicted carry a total of 136 years in prison if the sentences are imposed consecutively. Besides aiding the enemy, he was acquitted on an espionage count dealing with two specific computer files, a video and a database.
The sentencing phase of the court-martial, which could take several weeks, begins Wednesday morning. Because it was a general court-martial, Manning gets an automatic appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, probably within six months of sentencing.
Manning had already pleaded guilty to 10 charges that carry up to 20 years in prison, plus a dishonorable discharge. But prosecutors pushed ahead with more serious counts, including aiding the enemy.
Manning, 25, has said he was disillusioned by an American foreign policy bent on “killing and capturing people” when he released the documents, including battlefield reports and diplomatic cables, in 2010.
In a closing argument at the court-martial, Coombs argued that Manning was “trying to ply his knowledge to hopefully save lives,” was young and naïve and thought he could make a difference.
Military prosecutors said Manning was not a whistle-blower but a traitor. They said Manning knew that enemies of the United States use WikiLeaks as a resource, and they said some of the documents he released wound up in the hands of al Qaeda.
The prosecutors said Manning craved notoriety and put his fellow soldiers at risk.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has been hold up for more than a year to avoid extradition to Sweden, that Manning was a hero and that the case set a dangerous precedent.
“This was never a fair trial,” he told a small group of reporters, according to the British news agency Press Association.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that justice was served by Tuesday’s verdict.
“PFC Manning harmed our national security, violated the public’s trust, and now stands convicted of multiple serious crimes,” they said in a joint statement. “There is still much work to be done to reduce the ability of criminals like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden to harm our national security.”
The White House and State Department said they had no comment.
Manning has been jailed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since April 2011 and was at the military prison in Quantico, Va., for nine months before that.
Among his defenders is Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked what become known as the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. Those papers showed that the government was systematically misleading the public about U.S. involvement in Vietnam.