, FORT MEADE, Jul 30 – A US military judge convicted Bradley Manning of espionage on Tuesday, leaving him facing a lengthy jail term despite clearing him on the most serious charge that he ‘aided the enemy.’
Colonel Denise Lind found Manning guilty of 20 of 22 counts related to his leaking of a huge trove of secret US diplomatic cables and military logs to the WikiLeaks website.
She said she would begin sentencing hearings on Wednesday, at the Fort Meade military base outside Washington where the trial was held.
If Lind decides to impose penalties in the higher ranges permitted under the charges, the now 25-year-old Manning could face a de facto life sentence of more than 100 years in jail.
“On charge one, court finds you not guilty,” Lind told the hearing, before reading the long list of lesser counts on which Manning was found guilty of breaching the espionage act or disobeying orders.
The court was silent and Manning, a boyish young man in an army dress uniform and round glasses, showed no emotion before the live feed to the press room was cut.
Some freedom of information activists will welcome the news that he was at least cleared of knowingly aiding US foe Al-Qaeda by leaking secrets to be published on the Internet.
But there have been warnings that the case, and the harsh penalties Manning could still face, could deter whistleblowers and have a chilling effect on future media investigations.
On charge one, court finds you not guilty, Lind told the hearing, before reading the long list of lesser counts on which Manning was found guilty of breaching the espionage act or disobeying orders.
A few dozen protesters had gathered outside Fort Meade to support Manning and WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group set up by Australian cyber-activist Julian Assange, expressed fury at the verdict.
In a Twitter message, the WikiLeaks group said the court’s decision reflected “dangerous national security extremism” on the part of US President Barack Obama’s White House.
It also said the conviction of Manning set a “very serious new precedent for supplying information to the press.”
WikiLeaks is also working with a second American leaker, civilian former intelligence technician Edward Snowden, who is seeking asylum in Russia after revealing vast US electronic surveillance programs.