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Bradley Manning acquitted of aiding the enemy for giving secrets to WikiLeaks
CBS NEWS Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old Army private who gave thousands of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, was acquitted of aiding the enemy for giving secrets to WikiLeaks in a military court martial, but was convicted on five espionage counts.
Judge Col. Denise Lind released the decision Tuesday. Manning requested that a judge and not a jury decide his fate.
Manning, a native of Crescent, Okla., had prior to the verdict admitted to sending 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and other material, including several battlefield video clips, to WikiLeaks while working in Army intelligence in Iraq in early 2010.
WikiLeaks published much of the material on its website, as well as in cooperation with several news outlets like The New York Times and The Guardian.
Prosecutors had argued that Manning had a "general evil intent" because he knew the classified material would be seen by and help terrorists. They claimed when Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound in 2011, they found copies of WikiLeaks documents that Manning had provided. Prosecutors also argued that Manning simply wanted to make a name for himself by leaking the classified material.
Manning himself did not testify during the trial, but in a pre-trial hearing said he wanted to expose what he called the American military's "bloodlust" and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its dishonest diplomacy, and that he carefully selected material that wouldn't put troops in harms' way. His attorney has tried to portray Manning as a whistleblower with good intentions.
Many legal analysts said earlier that a conviction of Manning would mark a new precedent in prosecutions of U.S. secret leakers because the Army private never actually shared the information directly to an enemy of the U.S.
"Most of the aiding-the-enemy charges historically have had to do with POWs who gave information to the Japanese during World War II, or to Chinese communists during Korea, or during the Vietnam War," Duke law school professor and former Air Force judge advocate Scott Silliman told the Associated Press.
Manning's supporters have expressed fears that this new turn in leak prosecutions will have a chilling effect on potential whistleblowers of government wrongdoing.
The actual effects of Manning's leaks are still being debated three years later.
One of the videos leaked by Manning included a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed at least nine men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The video inflamed anger among many in the both the U.S. and abroad, because it allegedly showed unarmed civilians being killed, something the U.S. military disputed was incorrectly portrayed due to editing.
Other material leaked by Manning included thousands of confidential diplomatic cables that revealed the frank and often embarrassing discussions America's diplomatic corps had about various world leaders and geopolitics. For a time, there was anger amongst foreign diplomats and governments about some of the exposed secrets, but three years on, the latest series of U.S. government leaks produced by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have received nearly all of the international outrage towards America's clandestine behavior and actions. An example of one of the many revelations Manning leaked was a diplomatic cable claiming Saudi Arabia -- a key regional ally for the U.S. -- is one of the largest origin points for funds supporting international terrorism.
From the documents Manning leaked that came from the Pentagon, one of the many revelations was that there were 109,032 "violent deaths" recorded in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, including 66,081 civilians, which is 15,000 more than previously reported.
Manning pleaded guilty earlier this year to reduced versions of some charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison for those offenses, but prosecutors pressed ahead with the original eight federal Espionage Act violations, five federal theft counts, and two federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violations, each punishable by up to 10 years; and five military counts of violating a lawful general regulation, punishable by up to two years each.
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