2013-07-30 Manning verdict

FT MEADE - Judge Denise Lind today returned the verdict in the trial of Bradley Manning. Manning is found not guilty of aiding the enemy, but is found guilty on 19 counts, four of which were his lesser included pleas. He still could face more than 100 years in jail.

Prosecutor Ashden Fein pushed judge Lind hard in his closing remarks to convince her that Manning was "evil" and had released his data troves for the specific purpose of alerting al-Qaeda. A guilty verdict on that count would have meant the end of journalism as the world knows it.

Manning is found not guilty of violating the Espionage Act in leaking the Garani video, but guilty on six other Espionage Act counts, including his own pleas, and guilty on five counts of theft and four counts of embezzlement of government property.

He is found not guilty on only two of the 21 original counts.

Sentencing begins tomorrow when some 40 witnesses will be called, a process that could take the whole of August.

ACLU Statement

Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, issued the following statement.

While we're relieved that Mr Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

Since Manning already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information - which carry significant punishment - it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.

Amnesty Statements

Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, issued the following statement.

The government's pursuit of the 'aiding the enemy' charge was a serious overreach of the law, not least because there was no credible evidence of Manning's intent to harm the US by releasing classified information to WikiLeaks.

The government's priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.

Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing - reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government. You investigate and prosecute those who destroy the credibility of the government by engaging in acts such as torture which are prohibited under the US Constitution and in international law.

Since the attacks of September 11, we have seen the US government use the issue of national security to defend a whole range of actions that are unlawful under international and domestic law.

It's hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning's trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you, no holds barred, if you're thinking of revealing evidence of its unlawful behaviour.

Amnesty UK added the following.

Amnesty believes it undermines accountability when the US government is so selective about who it chooses to investigate and prosecute. This is particularly true when they seem intent on punishing those who reveal unlawful government behaviour and protecting those who actually engaged in or ordered such behaviour.

CCR Statement

The Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement.

While the "aiding the enemy" charges (on which Manning was rightly acquitted) received the most attention from the mainstream media, the Espionage Act itself is a discredited relic of the WWI era, created as a tool to suppress political dissent and antiwar activism, and it is outrageous that the government chose to invoke it in the first place against Manning. Government employees who blow the whistle on war crimes, other abuses, and government incompetence should be protected under the First Amendment.

We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free. If the government equates being a whistleblower with espionage or aiding the enemy, what is the future of journalism in this country? What is the future of the First Amendment?

Manning's treatment, prosecution, and sentencing have one purpose: to silence potential whistleblowers and the media as well. One of the main targets has been our clients, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, for publishing the leaks. Given the US government's treatment of Manning, Assange should be granted asylum in his home country of Australia and given the protections all journalists and publishers deserve.

We stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and call for the government to take heed and end its assault on the First Amendment.

Index on Censorship Statement

Index editor Sean Gallagher issued the following statement.

Manning is a whistleblower who leaked files in order to inform the world about what really happened during the Iraq War to no personal gain. Index condemns this verdict and calls on the US government to abide by its duty to protect whistleblowers who speak out in the public interest. We urge the court to show leniency when sentencing Manning tomorrow.

Article 19 Statement

Article 19, an organisation founded in 1987 and named after article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, called Manning a victim of state oppression.

Manning's conviction on 19 charges sets a terrible precedent against anyone who shines a light on serious human rights violations and war crimes. Instead of properly and impartially investigating such wrongdoing, the US government has imprisoned the messenger.

With the US getting away with this injustice, potential whistleblowers will remain silent, and other governments will feel able to crackdown on anybody who raises similar concerns about serious human rights violations anywhere.

Protecting whistleblowers that hold governments and institutions to account is central to protecting the right to freedom of expression under both the First Amendment of the US Constitution and under international law. Sadly in Bradley Manning's case, this military court has decided to ignore such guarantees and do away with justice.

President Obama should give Bradley Manning a full presidential pardon. If he does not, how will the US government hold its head high and tell other governments that they should protect freedom of information and free speech?

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