Julian Assange says Bradley Manning verdict is 'dangerous precedent' as whistleblower faces sentencing

Charge carried possible life sentence, although he will now be sentenced after convictions on lesser charges of espionage and theft

Fort Meade, Maryland

Bradley Manning, the former military intelligence analyst who gave classified information to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks in 2010, was acquitted of aiding the enemy, the gravest charge laid against him by the US government. He was, however, found guilty of 19 other charges including espionage, theft and computer fraud.

Delivered by Judge Denise Lind at the Fort Meade base, the acquittal on the aiding the enemy charge was a large if somewhat symbolic victory for the defence and to Manning supporters worldwide. All the other guilty verdicts - including six on charges of espionage - still mean that Manning faces spending the rest of his life in prison. 

The mixed emotions of the day for supporters of Manning were reflected in a statement from his family. “While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform.”

Following the verdict, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused President Barack Obama of "national security extremism," referring to Manning "the most important journalistic source the world has ever seen".

"The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to break him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial," Assange said from inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, his home for more than a year.

Assange said WikiLeaks and Manning's own legal team would not rest until the judgement was overturned.

"It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short-sighted judgment that cannot be tolerated and it must be reversed."

After eight weeks of arguments and testimony, the reading of the verdicts took barely five minutes. Once Judge Lind had uttered the not-guilty verdict to the aiding the enemy charge, she delivered a rapid fusillade of mostly guilty verdicts on the other charges, each time glancing over her glasses at Manning. The sentencing phase will begin here tomorrow morning and could last several weeks with both sides expected to bring forward numerous witnesses.

For his part, Manning stood to attention appearing stoic and showing no visible emotion as Judge Lind spoke. Only when the verdicts were over did he briefly talk with his legal team, led by David Coombs, before court was dismissed. While several of his supporters were in the public gallery they also remained quiet.

A military legal source said that notwithstanding the not guilty verdict on aiding the enemy, Manning still faces sentences of up to 136 years for the combined guilty verdicts. However, there are no minimum sentences which means Judge Lind has leeway for leniency. Sentencing may not come until near the end of August, officials said.

“We won the battle, now we need to go win the war,” the lead defence lawyer Mr Coombs said of the sentencing phase after the verdicts were read. “Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire.”

Press freedom advocates had warned that a guilty verdict on aiding the enemy could have cast a chill on journalists trying to hold governments to account and on would-be whistle-blowers.  But there was still widespread dismay among civil liberties groups over the full array of the other guilty verdicts.

“It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning's trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you,” Amnesty International noted. WikiLeaks said the espionage convictions showed “dangerous national security extremism from the Obama administration”.

Even before the trial started on 3 June, Pfc Manning had acknowledged being the source who supplied WikiLeaks, setting in train the largest leak of classified information in US history. In May he pleaded guilty to portions of ten of the 21 charges against him, opening himself up to possibly of 20 years of confinement. Prosecutors decided to press forward nonetheless and seek guilty verdicts on the full versions of all the charges including aiding the enemy.

Judge Lind had deliberated for 16 hours. It was Manning’s own decision to put his fate in her hands only rather than opting for a jury. In closing arguments, the government argued he had betrayed the trust of his country and must have known that the leaked secrets would reach America’s enemies, including al-Qa’ida.

The defence team, however, contended that Manning, who was deployed to Baghdad as an analyst in late 2009, may have been naïve but was good-intentioned in his actions.  Making a statement in May alongside his guilty pleas, Manning said he wanted to reveal the “bloodlust” of the US military and so-called disregard for human life.

He transmitted his first batch of papers to WikiLeaks, founded by Assange, on 3 February 2001 with an attached note. “This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war, and revealing the true nature of the 21st century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day.” Thereafter he handed over more than 700,000 documents, including battlefield notes from Iraq and Afghanistan and a video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed eleven people, including a Reuters photographer and his driver.

In his closing arguments last week, Major Ashden Fein, a military prosecutor, said Manning had stolen the information and “decided to release it to a bunch of anti-government activists and anarchists to achieve maximum exposure, the maximum exposure, and advance his personal quest for notoriety.”

The trial has been slightly eclipsed by Edward Snowden, the contractor for the National Security Agency, who unveiled details of its programmes to trawl private telephone and internet traffic. However, the two cases are hardly unrelated and it may have been the treatment of Manning that persuaded Mr Snowden to flee abroad.

By mid-morning a few dozen pro-Manning protesters had gathered at the gates to the Fort Meade base waving Free Bradley placards and flags. “It’s been a brutal trial. It’s clear they want to lock him up for life and keep him away from the public for ever,” said Yoni Miller, 19, of New York, who was also wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of Snowden. “Ultimately they are covering up the war crimes that have been exposed by Bradley Manning.”

Chuck Heyn, 66, a Vietnam War veteran, has repeatedly driven from Pennsylvania to try to get a seat in the court martial. “I have been in his shoes,” he said. “I know how tough it is to come forward with information if you find it. The truth hurts. But when you know the truth you have to do something about it. My goal is to continue keeping his goal alive - to get the truth out there, to bring about change in this country and instigate accountability.”

Profile: The boy who went from Wales to WikiLeaks

Bradley Manning was born in 1987 and brought up in Crescent, a small town in rural Oklahoma. His American father, Brian, had spent five years as an intelligence analyst in the US military.

Manning reportedly created his first website aged 10, and took the top prize at a local science fair for three years running. His parents divorced in 2001, and he moved with his Welsh mother, Susan Fox, to Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire.

Small for his age – even as an adult, he is still little more than 5ft – he suffered bullying in Wales, and is said to have been taunted for being gay and geeky.

With his mother increasingly unwell, he returned to the US without her in 2005, when he was 17, and after two years in a series low-paid jobs, finally enlisted in the army to help fund a college degree.

Allegedly bullied again during military training, and almost discharged altogether, in 2009 Manning was nonetheless posted to Iraq as an intelligence analyst. Reports suggested he sank into a depression following a relationship break-up.

A private first class, Manning had a minimal wage and rank but his work at US Forward Operating Base Hammer, near Baghdad, gave him access to vast amounts of sensitive information. As he delved through the files he became increasingly disillusioned with US foreign policy. He would later leak what he saw to WikiLeaks.

Tim Walker

Timeline: History of a whistleblower

October 2009 Bradley Manning is posted to Iraq as an intelligence officer.

November 2009 Manning contacts the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for the  first time.

February-April 2010 Manning allegedly sends footage of a US air strike in Iraq – during which American helicopters fired on and killed civilians in Baghdad – to WikiLeaks, which posts it on the internet as “Collateral murder” on  5 April.

May 2010 First contact between Manning and the ex-hacker Adrian Lamo takes place. Manning ultimately confesses having sent the documents to WikiLeaks. Lamo contacts the authorities.

May 2010 Manning is arrested and placed in pre-trial confinement at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

July 2010 Manning is charged with leaking the video and secret diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.

March 2011 Twenty-two new charges are brought against Manning, including “aiding the enemy” (punishable  by death). He accuses Virginia brig jailers of “unlawful pre-trial punishment” including stripping him naked  every night.

April 2011 Manning is moved to a Kansas jail after international criticism over his treatment in Virginia.

February 2012 A military investigator determines that Manning will stand trial. Months of pre-trial hearings ensue.

March 2012 The UN special rapporteur releases report accusing US government of inhumane treatment of Manning.

February 2013 Manning pleads guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him but denies the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

June 2013 Manning’s eight-week trial begins in Fort Meade.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world