Rabu, 31 Juli 2013

Bradley Manning acquitted of most serious charge convicted of others

Manning's leak of more than 700 000 State Department cables terrorism detainee assessments combat logs and videos was the largest breach of classified secrets in U.S. history. Among the information was a now infamous 2007 video of an Apache combat helicopter attack in Iraq in which U.S. soldiers fired on civilians and killed 12 including two Reuters journalists.

Manning becomes one of only two people ever convicted under the Espionage Act for making classified data available to the public the other Samuel L. Morison a government security analyst convicted in 1985 was pardoned by President Clinton on his final day in office.

We won the battle now we need to go win the war said chief defense lawyer David Coombs who was greeted by applause and thanks from Manning supporters when he left the courtroom. Today is a good day but Bradley is by no means out of the fire.

Under the aiding the enemy charge Manning 25 could have been sent to prison for life with no parole. The military judge Army Col. Denise Lind heard the case without a jury and did not explain her verdicts. She appeared to have accepted defense arguments that Manning did not understand that releasing the material could allow Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations to use the information to harm the United States.

The government's theory that even if Manning did not directly convey information to an enemy he could be charged with that crime because information released to the public could be obtained by U.S. adversaries had serious implications for whistle blowers and those who provide information about classified programs to journalists.

Prosecutors pushed a theory that making information available on the Internet whether through WikiLeaks in a personal blog posting or on the website of the New York Times can amount to 'aiding the enemy ' said Widney Brown senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International. That Brown said is ludicrous.

A conviction for aiding the enemy would have severely crippled the operation of a free press said Thomas Fiedler dean of the College of Communication at Boston University.

At Tuesday's hearing Manning wore a blue dress uniform wire rim glasses and a prison pallor after three years in pretrial confinement. He stood at ramrod attention and listened without emotion as the judge read the guilty and not guilty verdicts on about two dozen charges.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Wednesday with each side expected to present about 10 witnesses. Manning's lawyers may put him on the stand.

If so it would be the second time he has addressed the court. In February Manning pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges of mishandling classified data. He said then that after collecting intelligence on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I began to become depressed with the situation we had become mired in year after year.

After the sentencing Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan commander of joint forces in the capital region has the authority to toss out some or all of the guilty verdicts and theoretically release Manning. On Friday Manning supporters rallied outside the gate of Ft. McNair in Washington where Buchanan is stationed. They carried balloons and a 20 foot banner that read Maj. Gen. Buchanan Do the Right Thing. Free Bradley Manning.

Manning was arrested in spring 2010 after the documents he took from government computer databases began appearing in sensational posts on the WikiLeaks website. For months he was held incommunicado and his lawyers complained he was kept naked and tortured emotionally before his trial began in June.

Manning elected to allow Judge Lind to hear the case without a jury probably worried that a panel of fellow soldiers weighing his fate would not be pleased that some of the material he gave to WikiLeaks was found in Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan after the Al Qaeda leader was killed by Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Military prosecutors presented evidence that Manning underwent extensive training about safeguarding classified data before becoming an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq and that he instructed other soldiers in security procedures.

He was a traitor a traitor who understood the value of compromised information in the hands of the enemy and took deliberate steps to ensure that they along with the world received it Maj. Ashden Fein the chief prosecutor told the judge.

The defense however portrayed Manning as a small town youth from Oklahoma who joined the Army with good intentions only to become deeply bothered when he discovered what he believed to be government misconduct. Coombs said Manning was a whistle blower a young naive good intentioned soldier.

The soldier has spawned a worldwide group of sympathizers who have rallied in his defense urged his release and floated his name for the Nobel Peace Prize.

On Tuesday morning hours before Manning learned his fate two dozen supporters many wearing black TRUTH T shirts hoisted signs and waved at workers arriving at Ft. Meade where the court martial has been held and which also houses the highly secretive National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Julian Assange the founder of WikiLeaks was asked before the verdicts whether a long prison sentence would be worth it to Manning.

That's something Bradley Manning has to weigh up Assange told CNN. He was willing to take that risk because he believes apparently that the result is so important.

richard.serrano latimes.com

Articles Source here

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