A diminutive Bradley Manning sat quietly two rows ahead of me, speaking softly on occasion to his lawyers, but kept a steady face.
He was probably tense, and had every reason to be, because within minutes of spectators being ushered into the military courtroom here, Judge Denise Lind pronounced the verdict in the U.S. government’s case against him — guilty on 17 out of 22 charges that were brought against him.
Mr. Manning has been prosecuted by the U.S. government for being the whistleblower behind Wikileaks’ publication of confidential State Department cables and video evidence of U.S. military attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Although he had pleaded guilty to ten of those charges, the judge exonerated him of what some supporters outside described to The Hindu as “the most sinister of charges”, namely that of aiding the enemy.
In doing so, Judge Lind has possibly set up a key challenge to the increasingly aggressive pursuit of whistleblowers by the Obama administration, most recently exemplified in its international efforts to secure the arrest of Edward Snowden.
In finding Mr. Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, the judge may have implicitly questioned the suggestion that passing on information to a website such as Wikileaks, which Mr. Manning was said to have done, is tantamount to passing it on to the enemy.
Judge Lind also held Mr. Manning not guilty of leaking an encrypted copy of a video of a U.S. attack in Farah, Afghanistan, in which numerous civilians were said to have died.
Despite this part of the verdict going in Mr. Manning’s favour, he nevertheless faces 130 years or more in prison stemming from the remainder of the charges of which he was found to be guilty.
Other charges that he was found guilty on relate to “wrongful and wanton publication of intelligence,” acts punishable under the Espionage and Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts, and stealing U.S. government property.
Speaking to The Hindu outside the trial courtroom Bradley Manning Support Network member Rose Zachhi that even though today’s verdict “means everything for peace and to end wars, they’re focusing on him instead of looking at what he exposed.”
This article has been amended to include some quotes.