Fort Meade, Maryland, gives little hint of the enormity of the court martial verdict that is to come in a few hours — the U.S. legal system’s view on the culpability of Bradley Manning, the army intelligence-officer-turned-whistleblower who is charged with passing on confidential government data to Wikileaks. With the verdict set to arrive at 1 pm Eastern Standard Time (11.30 pm IST) there are few signs at the deserted military base of the overwhelming media interest that was seen here on Day One of the trial.

However, what happens in this remote U.S. army base could affect big questions that the U.S. is grappling with, including whether passing on information to Internet websites such as Wikileaks constitutes “aiding the enemy.” That charge, which normally carries death penalty, is among the most serious of the 22 that Mr. Manning is facing judge Denise Lind appeared poised to find him guilty on all or most of these counts.