Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted of the most serious charges of aiding the enemy , which carried the death sentence but was found guilty of multiple counts of violating the Espionage act of 1917. Manning faces up to 132 years in prison for, as emptywheel‘s Marcy Wheeler notes, “alerting you to what your government does in your name:
Today, (Colonel Denise) Lind found Manning guilty of 20 charges for that effort to inform the American people of the policies pursued in their name. But, in a hugely significant development, she also ruled that he was not guilty of the charge of aiding the enemy. The verdict was revealed with silence and a delay, as the Army imposed new reporting rules on the press, citing earlier “shenanigans.”
That Lind found Manning guilty of 20 charges is not a surprise. Manning himself had pled guilty to 10 lesser offenses the day he read his statement, pleading to “unauthorized possession” and “willful communication” of most, but not all of the items he was accused of leaking. On several of the charges – notably, Manning’s leak of a video of Americans shooting a Reuters journalist – Lind accepted Manning’s lesser pleas.
Moreover, Lind had refused to throw out charges – including the aiding the enemy charge – that Manning’s defense argued the government had not substantiated. Lind had also changed the wording of three charges against Manning after the end of the trial, adjusting them to the evidence the government had actually submitted at trial. [..]
But the big news – and very good news – is that Manning is innocent of the aiding the enemy charge. That ruling averted a potentially catastrophic effect on freedom of speech in this country.
This was a kangaroo court from start to finish with no court stenographers allowed, harassment of the press in and out of the courtroom and the judge changing the rules as the trial progressed, even changing the charges after closing arguments
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who represents Wikileaks and Julian Assange in the U.S, released this statement upon hearing the verdict:
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 U.S. 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.
Meanwhile, yesterday, the Senate confirmed torture advocate and war criminal James Comey as Director of the FBI by a vote of 93 to 1. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only no vote. Oregon’s Democratic Senators Merkley and Wyden voted present; Senators Chiesa (R-NJ); Heitkamp (D-ND); Murkowski (R-AK); and Rubio (R-FL) did not vote.