Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence officer who was branded as 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 other charges.
Manning was convicted of illegally releasing classified documents knowing they would be accessible to the enemy. Aiding the enemy was the most serious charge and carried a potential life sentence.
The verdict was handed down by Col. Denise Lind, the judge at Manning’s court-martial at Fort Meade, Md. Manning will be sentenced later.
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, his lawyer, David 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.
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 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.
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