Bradley Manning faces 136 years in jail for his leaks. (Photo: Associated Press)
The military analyst who exposed U.S. foreign policy to the world was found guilty today on 19 counts–and faces up to 136 years in prison for his actions.
Bradley Manning was convicted today of violating the Espionage Act and laws against theft and computer fraud. Manning was the source behind WikiLeaks’ disclosures of hundreds of thousands of documents detailing the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. diplomacy around the world.
Manning’s Espionage Act conviction is the latest example of how the Obama administration has used the World War I law to crack down on government whistleblowers. Edward Snowden, the leaker who exposed the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance, has also been charged with violating the act.
But in a significant victory for Manning’s defense team, the judge in the case rejected the charge that Manning “aided the enemy.” If Manning was found guilty on that charge, the verdict would have had profound implications for national security journalism in the country. The prosecution’s theory was that Manning’s leaks had aided Al Qaeda because Osama bin Laden possessed WikiLeaks documents on his computer. By that theory, the New York Times publishing leaked documents on the futility of the war in Afghanistan could be construed as “aiding the enemy.”
“We won the battle, now we need to go win the war,” Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, told supporters of the military whistleblower. “Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire.” Tomorrow, the sentencing phase of the trial begins. Both the defense and prosecution are expected to call additional witnesses for arguments during the sentencing phase.
Manning was arrested in 2010 shortly after the hacker who he confided in told the U.S. government about Manning’s disclosures. He was held in solitary confinement, stripped naked at times and treated in a cruel and inhuman manner, as the United Nations rapporteur on torture concluded in March 2012.
Manning’s disclosures to WikiLeaks led to front-page stories in major media outlets and an unprecedented look into U.S. foreign policy. Manning’s leaks exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan; a secret deal David Petraeus struck with Yemen’s leader to hide American drone strikes; America’s blind eye to Iraqi security forces’ torture; pressure on European nations over prosecutions of U.S. officials for torture; spying on the United Nations; and much more.
For Israel/Palestine watchers, Manning’s leak of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables provided a close look at Middle East politics. The disclosures from Manning exposed Israel’s closeness with the Palestinian Authority; the Israeli Prime Minister’s vision of a Palestinian state; and how the Egyptian and Israeli militaries worked together during Israel’s massive 2008-09 assault on the Gaza Strip. The leaks also exposed how the U.S. worked to blunt the effect of the Goldstone report, which documented Israeli war crimes during the assault on Gaza.
Manning told the court in March 2013 that he leaked documents and videos to WikiLeaks because he believed if “the American public, had access to the information…this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.”