Military Judge Announces Rationale Behind Verdict in Bradley Manning’s Trial
Manning was convicted of six violations of the Espionage Act. The military prosecutors had to prove that the information he released to WikiLeaks had been classified, that he had reason to believe the information was classified, that disclosure of the material “would be potentially damaging to the United States or might be useful to an enemy of the United States.”
The government also had to show the material was “closely held by the United States government, in that the relevant agency” had “sought to keep the information from the public.” If the information was “lawfully available to the public,” and the US had made no effort to “guard such information, the information” could not be considered to “relate to the national defense.”
Judge Army Col. Denise Lind found, “The more than one classified memorandum produced by a United States government intelligence agency was closely held by the United States government. PFC. 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.”
Interestingly, despite the fact the government invoked a recent ruling in the case of Stephen Kim, a former State Department employee charged with violating the Espionage Act, the judge did not adopt the lowered burden of proof in that case, where the judg in Kim’s case found the government did not have to prove the release of the information “would be potentially damaging.”
Manning was convicted of “wrongfully and wantonly causing publication of intelligence belonging to the United States on the Internet knowing the intelligence” would be “accessible to the enemy to the prejudice of the good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
What she found in relation to this charge was that he had clearly committed this offense when he released the information in the database containing Iraq war logs, information in the database containing Afghanistan war logs, the “Gitmo Files,” the reports on an investigation into the Granai air strike in the Farah province in Afghanistan, the 250,000-plus diplomatic cables, the Reykjavik cable and the report from the Army Counterintelligence Center (ACIC) on WikiLeaks as a “threat.”
The judge concluded, “At the time of the charged offense, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were enemies of the United States. Pfc. Manning knew that al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States.” His conduct was “of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others.”
Manning was charged with “aiding the enemy,” which required the government to prove knowledge that, by giving the information to WikiLeaks, he was indirectly “aiding the enemy.” She found knowledge of the enemy with regards to the “wantonly causing to be published” offense but apparently no knowledge that when he gave the information to WikiLeaks he knew he would be “aiding the enemy.”
The judge convicted Manning of five embezzlement of government property offenses, which related to the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, the “Gitmo Files,” US diplomatic cables, and also a Global Address List (GAL) of US forces’ email addresses.
The court found, “PFC. 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. 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 by storing it only on classified networks required to be located in a [secure compartmented intelligence facility] and by restricting access to the classified information only to persons with appropriate security clearances and a need to know the information.”
The “special finding” related to the GAL is more extensive than most of her other findings because Manning had not actually stolen or converted the GAL yet. She had to find that he had the intent to steal or knowingly convert the GAL.
The judge made findings related to this exceeding authorized access on a government computer and his violation of the Army regulations. She had heard testimony about Manning using a program called Wget on his computer, which was unauthorized, and determined that “Manning never inquired whether Wget was an authorized program” and no one in his “supervisory chain” had ever told him that Wget was an authorized program. So, he was not permitted to download this program on to his work computer, which he used to quickly download information provided to WikiLeaks.
There is nothing in the “special findings” on WikiLeaks. It is unknown what conclusions she came to on whether it was a legitimate journalistic organization or not. She did not have to make a determination in her “special findings” because she acquitted him of the “aiding the enemy” charge.
Manning faces a maximum punishment of 90 years in military prison, which he would serve at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Sentencing argument will take place on Monday and, on Tuesday, Manning’s defense attorney, David Coombs, suggests there will be a sentencing verdict announced by the judge.
Image by Clark Stoeckley under Creative Commons license