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Bradley Manning found not guilty of aiding the enemy

Bradley Manning was acquitted on the most serious charge in his military court martial. But Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage, theft, and computer fraud charges.

By David Dishneau and Pauline JelinekAssociated Press / July 30, 2013

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted to a security vehicle outside of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md. U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted Tuesday, July 30, 2013, of aiding the enemy for giving classified secrets to WikiLeaks. The military judge hearing the case, Army Col. Denise Lind, announced the verdict.

Patrick Semansky/AP/File

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Fort Meade, Maryland

More than three years after US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested for giving classified secrets to WikiLeaks, a military judge acquitted the former intelligence analyst Tuesday of aiding the enemy but convicted him of espionage, theft and computer fraud charges.

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The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, deliberated for about 16 hours over three days before reaching her decision in a case that drew worldwide attention as supporters hailed Manning as a whistleblower. The US government called him an anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor.

Manning stood and faced the judge as she read the decision. She didn't explain her verdict, but said she would release detailed written findings. She didn't say when she would do that.

The charge of aiding the enemy was the most serious of 21 counts Manning faced and carried a potential life sentence. His sentencing hearing on the convictions begins Wednesday. He faces up to 128 years in prison.

Manning's court-martial was unusual because he acknowledged giving the anti-secrecy website more than 700,000 battlefield reports and diplomatic cables, and video of a 2007 US helicopter attack that killed civilians in Iraq, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. In the footage, airmen laughed and called targets "dead bastards."

Manning pleaded guilty earlier this year to lesser offenses that could have brought him 20 years behind bars, yet the government continued to pursue the original, more serious charges.

Manning said during a pre-trial hearing in February he leaked the material to expose the US military's "bloodlust" and disregard for human life, and what he considered American diplomatic deceit. He said he chose information he believed would not the harm the United States and he wanted to start a debate on military and foreign policy. He did not testify at his court-martial.

Defense attorney David Coombs portrayed Manning as a "young, naive but good-intentioned" soldier who was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay service member at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the US military.

He said Manning could have sold the information or given it directly to the enemy, but he gave them to WikiLeaks in an attempt to "spark reform" and provoke debate. A counterintelligence witness valued the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs at about $5.7 million, based on what foreign intelligence services had paid in the past for similar information.

Coombs said Manning had no way of knowing whether Al Qaeda would access the secret-spilling website and a 2008 counterintelligence report showed the government itself didn't know much about the site.

The defense attorney also mocked the testimony of a former supervisor who said Manning told her the American flag meant nothing to him and she suspected before they deployed to Iraq that Manning was a spy. Coombs noted she had not written up a report on Manning's alleged disloyalty, though had written ones on him taking too many smoke breaks and drinking too much coffee.

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