FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service, July 30, 2013) -- Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was found not guilty of the most serious charge of knowingly aiding the enemy, but was convicted on 20 other specifications related to the misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of intelligence documents sent to WikiLeaks.
"Right now, he still faces a possibility of 136 years" of confinement, said Manning's defense attorney, David Coombs, speaking outside the courtroom minutes after the verdict was read by Army Col. Denise Lind, the presiding judge. She said sentencing phase of the trial will begin July 31.
Manning and his defense team were encouraged at the first "not guilty" count, Coombs said, but added that there will be "no celebrating tonight."
"We won the battle, per se, but the war is going to be tomorrow," Coombs said. "Sentencing is what really matters at the end of the day."
Aiding the enemy held a maximum penalty of life in prison, so Coombs said beating that specification was a boost to the defense. Manning was also found not guilty of specification 11 of count 2, involving the alleged unauthorized release of a video.
He pled guilty, however, at the beginning of the trial to 10 specifications involving the unauthorized release of classified information, and was found guilty of another 10 specifications. These include theft of government records, violating lawful regulations and wrongfully storing classified information.
Manning's release of classified material did immeasurable harm to national security and put lives at risk, the prosecutor said in his closing arguments, July 25.
The next day though, Manning's defense attorney argued the accused was a young, naïve but well-intentioned Soldier who wanted to make a difference in this world for the better by bringing to light the wrongs that were done during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning, now 25, was an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010, working in a tactical-sensitive compartmented information facility, or T-SCIF, at Forward Operating Base Hammer near Baghdad. A SCIF is a restricted facility where secret materials are transmitted, collected and analyzed.
The prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, stated that the facts clearly pointed to Manning's culpability, while the defense, led by Coombs, argued that the prosecution's charges amounted to "diatribes not based in facts."
At the start of the trial on June 3, 2013, Manning pled guilty to 10 charges related to leaking classified information to the organization WikiLeaks, which then made the documents accessible to the public on the Internet and through media outlets like the New York Times, the United Kingdom-based The Guardian and the Germany-based Der Spiegel.
Even the term "media" was argued during the trial, with the prosecution saying the WikiLeaks organization was not a legitimate news outlet and the defense arguing that it was.
Manning chose to have a trial by the judge alone, rather than a trial by a panel, which is the military's version of a jury. Following his sentencing, Manning's verdict will be reviewed by the Military District of Washington commander, Maj. Gen. Jeffery S. Buchanan.
Manning's very rigorous and thorough training as an intelligence analyst instilled in him the importance significant activities, or SIGACTS, have on whether Soldiers succeed in battle, fail or are killed, said the prosecutor, Fein.
Yet despite this knowledge, Manning downloaded some 470,000 SIGACTS from the SIPRNET to an SD card, which he later transferred to his home computer. Some 380,000 were from Iraq and 90,000 from Afghanistan.
The SIPRNET is the military's classified section of the Internet and an SD card is a memory card used to store data that can be transferred from one computer to another.
In addition to SIGACTS, there were Apache attack helicopter videos and thousands of State Department cables Manning released, Fein said.
A SIGACT, he said, could include anything from where an attack or improvised explosives device detonated to how an attack helicopter engages the enemy and numbers of casualties resulting from an ambush or IED.
He said commanders decide their main supply routes, plan their battles and base other tactical decisions on SIGACTS, which are even plotted on maps to provide a clear picture of where dangers, as well as where opportunities lie.
If the enemy gets these SIGACTS, they will have access to the Army's "playbook" and can then deduce the tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTP, used and can devise effective countermeasures or adjust fires, Fein said.
A number of foreign governments would gladly pay millions of dollars to have this sort of information, Fein added.
Having released the information soon after deploying to Iraq, Manning "basked in the amount of press he was receiving" and even posed and smiled in a photo he had taken of himself, holding his memory card containing the data, Fein said.
He was clearly on an ego trip and knew the information he'd released would harm U.S. national security, Fein said, adding that Manning even wiped his machine seven times during a three-hour period to ensure his tracks were covered.
Wiping a machine means deleting everything on it. Traces of information often remain so multiple wipes are preferred as a more effective scrub.
In short, Fein said, Manning "wanted to be hailed as famous" without regard for the lives of his fellow Soldiers. "The flag meant nothing to him."
Manning had access to the entire SIPRNET, which contains millions of documents, said Coombs. He could have probably downloaded and released the entire SIPRNET.
Yet, he selectively chose to download and pass on only those secret documents that he felt would show how U.S. policy exploited third-world countries and harmed a lot of innocent lives, he said.
If Americans learned about what their government was doing, Coombs continued, then Manning truly believed they'd see the light and demand changes.
Coombs argued as well that classified documents were arbitrarily labeled "secret" and most released by Manning could arguably be deemed appropriate for declassification by any reasonable person.
Far from being a traitor, Manning was acting in a way he thought was patriotic, Coombs said, citing recorded conversations Manning had with his friend, Lauren McNamara and Adrian Lamo, the man who ultimately turned Manning in to the FBI.
As for wiping his computer seven times, Coombs said that was normal procedure as the software often got corrupted and had to be reinstalled. Additionally, he continued to use his computer to gain classified materials for several months and never subsequently wiped it.
As to TTPs, playbook and SIGACTS, Coombs said those and other terms are "buzzwords" designed to cast aspersions on Manning. In fact, the enemy already was adjusting fires and adapting based on their own observations, and doing so effectively.
As to WikiLeaks itself, Coombs said it was a legitimate news organization, having been recognized with journalistic awards, vetting its sources and publishing information that turned out to be highly accurate.
The press, including WikiLeaks, has a responsibility to provide government oversight as part of its Constitutional 1st Amendment rights, Coombs said. He added that the Watergate scandal would have never been brought to light had it not been for the intrepid journalists.
Coombs concluded that there is absolutely zero proof Manning ever even hinted that he was knowingly aiding the enemy. "He really did care what happened to people and hoped to spark a worldwide debate with discussions and reforms."
The small courtroom at Fort Meade was packed and others had to attend the trial at a nearby trailer, which was considered an annex of the courtroom where no audio or photos were allowed.
Dozens were there and it appeared they were sympathetic to Manning. Most clapped to show their solidarity with Manning when the defense rested its case. The judge warned them that such outbursts were not appropriate or tolerated in a court of law.
The remainder of the trial attendees were from various media outlets. Those interviewed said they were committed to being "neutral" in their reporting, but that Manning definitely violated the law by leaking classified material and should receive at least some level of punishment commensurate with his crimes.