30 July 2013
Last updated at 16:06 ET
Bradley Manning, the US Army private who leaked thousands of classified documents, has been convicted of espionage but not of aiding the enemy.
Pte Manning, 25, has been found guilty of 20 charges in total, including theft and computer fraud.
He had admitted leaking the documents to anti-secrecy organisation Wikileaks but said he did so to spark a debate on US foreign policy.
The leak is considered the largest ever of secret US government files.
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After a seven-week court martial, the Bradley Manning verdict was delivered in less than 10 minutes in a small courtroom with several dozen spectators. Judge Colonel Denise Lind handed down her decision in a staccato tone, count by count, before leaving.
Manning was convicted of most of the charges, but in acquitting him of the most serious one, aiding the enemy, Judge Lind seems to have disagreed with the prosecution’s claim that the 25-year-old soldier had leaked the material with “general evil intent”.
The aiding the enemy charge was brought under the precedent of a Civil War-era case. In that trial, a Union Army private, Henry Vanderwater, was convicted in 1863 after leaking a command roster to a Virginia newspaper. Vanderwater got three months hard labour. Manning – who faces up to 136 years in prison – is unlikely to get off as lightly.
He faces a maximum sentence up to 136 years. His sentencing hearing is set to begin on Wednesday.
In addition to multiple espionage counts, he was also found guilty of five theft charges, two computer fraud charges and multiple military infractions.
Pte Manning stood and faced Judge Colonel Denise Lind as she read the decision on Tuesday. She said she would release detailed written findings at a later date.
He appeared to not react during the verdict, but his defence lawyer, David Coombs, smiled faintly as the not guilty charge on aiding the enemy was read.
“We won the battle, now we need to go win the war,” his defence lawyer, David Coombs said of the sentencing phase. “Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire.”
Being found guilty of aiding the enemy could have had serious implications for people leaking documents in the future, says the BBC’s North America editor, Mark Mardell.
“The government’s pursuit of the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge was a serious overreach of the law, not least because there was no credible evidence of Manning’s intent to harm the USA by releasing classified information to WikiLeaks,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
Among the items sent to Wikileaks by Pte Manning was graphic footage of an Apache helicopter attack in 2007 that killed a dozen people in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, including a Reuters photographer.
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Guilty: Seven out of eight espionage charges, five theft charges, two computer fraud charges, five military counts of violating a lawful general regulation, one of wanton publication of intelligence on the internet
Not guilty: Aiding the enemy, unauthorised possession of information relating to national defence
The documents also included 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and 250,000 secure state department cables between Washington and embassies around the world.
Pte Manning, an intelligence analyst, was arrested in Iraq in May 2010. He spent weeks in a cell at Camp Arifjan, a US Army installation in Kuwait, before being transferred to the US.
During the court martial, prosecutors said Pte Manning systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents in order to gain notoriety.
With his training as an intelligence analyst, Pte Manning should have known the leaked documents would become available to al-Qaeda operatives, they argued.
The defence characterised him as a naive and young soldier who had become disillusioned during his time in Iraq.
His actions, Mr Coombs argued, were those of a whistle-blower.
In a lengthy statement during a pre-trial hearing in February, Pte Manning said he had leaked the files in order to spark a public debate about US foreign policy and the military.
Much of the court martial was spent considering the soldier’s intentions as he leaked the documents.
His supporters rallied outside the court in Fort Meade and said they are planning to march to the White House on Tuesday evening.