The scene has been set for the sentencing of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the young US Army intelligence analyst convicted on multiple espionage violations in the largest leak of classified information in American history.
Final sentencing arguments will be heard next Monday, Col. Denise Lind, the judge in the case, announced Friday, to be followed by her decision on Manning’s punishment a day or two later. Manning faces up to 90 years in prison.
In 10 pages of “special findings” released Friday at the request of Manning’s defense team, Lind explained the rationale for convicting him for offenses that included spying, releasing classified information, disobeying orders, and leaking intelligence knowing that it would be accessible to the enemy.
During the trial, the judge acquitted Manning of “aiding the enemy” charges, which would have required evidence that he knowingly intended to do so. But the judge also noted how close Manning came to doing just that.
“At the time of the charged offense, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were enemies of the United States,” she wrote in the special findings. “Pfc. Manning knew that al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States.”
As evidence, prosecutors had pointed out that references to Manning’s leak of more than 700,000 pieces of classified information to the controversial website WikiLeaks – including diplomatic cables, Guantánamo detainee profiles, and battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan – were found in Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan when US Navy SEALs killed him there in May 2011.
Manning “had reason to believe the information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation,” she wrote. His conduct was “of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others.”
Lind found that Manning “knowingly converted the records and information therein, by sending them to WikiLeaks.”
“These knowing conversions involved a misuse of the records, and information therein, that seriously and substantially interfered with the United States government’s property rights,” she wrote. “The records, and information therein, are classified. The knowing conversions by PFC Manning deprived the United States government of the ability to protect its classified information ....”
Lead defense attorney David Coombs spoke to Manning's supporters outside the courtroom Friday. He is said to have told them that Manning "was in good spirits today,” according to the Courthouse News website. Manning's attorney indicated that he expects the soldier to serve his sentence in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he has been since April 2011.
The trial, including Friday’s proceedings, has been held at Fort Meade, Md.
On Wednesday, Manning apologized for what he had done during the time he served in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
"I'm sorry that my actions hurt people,” he told the court. “I'm sorry that it hurt the United States.”
"I should have worked more aggressively within the system,” Manning said. “Unfortunately, I can't go back and change things. I understand I must pay a price for my decisions.”