Nightly News   |  July 30, 2013

Manning verdict may inhibit future leakers, legal experts say

Pfc. Bradley Manning, who sent 700,000 secret government documents to WikiLeaks, was acquitted of aiding the enemy but found guilty on 20 other counts including espionage, computer fraud and theft. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>>> there is a verdict to report tonight in the case of private first class bradley manning . a military judge found him guilty of espionage and other charges for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret documents on the wars in iraq and afghanistan. but manning was acquitted of the most serious charge he faced. our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski has covered this story from the start.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. for bradley manning , this was somewhat of a mixed verdict. the judge found that bradley manning was no whistle blower, but stopped short of calling him a traitor. bradley manning emerged from court today appearing as if he had just dodged a huge bullet. he was found not guilty on the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. but guilty on 20 other counts. including espionage, computer fraud and theft. manning was convicted of leaking 700,000 secret documents to the wikileaks website. manning aided the enemy, because many of those documents wound up in the hands of former al qaeda leader osama bin laden . the judge ruled while manning was neglect, there was no intent to share the secrets with the enemy. the defense claimed manning first set out to reveal abuses by the u.s. military in iraq. in a pretrial statement to the court, manning admitted he leaked this classified video that killed a number of insurgents and two innocent children. he was troubled by the american crew joking about the killing.

>> was the seemingly delightful blood lust --

>> in london tonight , julian assange says manning 's lawyers will fight his conviction on espionage charges.

>> it is a serious precedent. serious abuse. and it will mean the end of national security jobs in the united states as we know it.

>> reporter: legal experts predict manning 's convictions will have a chilling effect on future leakers.

>> the government is very, very serious about protecting the status of classified information . and people who disemanate it are playing with fire .

>> that message could be hammered home when the judge sentences manning within the next few weeks, even without the aiding the enemy charge, the 25-year-old manning still faces a maximum sentence of 126 years in prison. brian?

>> jim miklaszewski at the pentagon, reporting on this widely watched case tonight. jim, thanks.