Today, a military judge found Bradley Manning guilty of violating the Espionage Act for disclosing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. However, she acquitted him on the more serious charge of “aiding the enemy.”
The judge rejected the government’s argument that Manning, by virtue of his training as an intelligence officer, must have known that the information he disclosed was likely to reach Al Qaeda. But she also ruled that Manning had reason to believe his disclosures could harm the U.S., even if that was not his goal.
“This is a historic verdict,” says Goitein. “Manning is one of very few people ever charged under the Espionage Act prosecutions for leaks to the media. The only other person who was convicted after trial was pardoned. Despite the lack of any evidence that he intended any harm to the United States, Manning faces decades in prison. That’s a very scary precedent.”
The judge will schedule a sentencing hearing in the weeks ahead. Manning already has pled guilty to some charges, for which he faces up to 20 years in prison. In order to determine the appropriate sentence, the judge will need to consider an issue that was ruled irrelevant at the guilt phase of the trial: whether Manning wanted to harm the U.S.