Bradley Manning, accused of leaking documents to whistleblower organisation WikiLeaks, is found not guilty of “aiding the enemy” but is convicted of five espionage and five theft counts.
Military judge Judge Colonel Denise Lind on Tuesday found former US army intelligence analyst not guilty of the most serious charge he faced for handing over documents to WikiLeaks.
She found him guilty of most of the other 20 criminal counts in the biggest breach of classified information in the nation’s history.
The US government was pushing for the maximum penalty for what it viewed as a serious breach of national security, which included battlefield reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while anti-secrecy activists praised Manning’s action as shining a light on shadowy U.S. operations abroad.
Army prosecutors contended during the court-martial that U.S. security was harmed when the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website published combat videos of an attack by an American Apache helicopter gunship, diplomatic cables and secret details on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay that Manning provided the site while he was a junior intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
A crowd of about 30 Manning supporters had gathered outside Fort Meade ahead of the reading of the verdict.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tonight attacked the conviction, calling Mr Manning a “hero”.
Speaking inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Mr Assange said the conviction by a military court set a “dangerous precedent”.
Bradley Manning verdicts
Acquitted of aiding the enemy for giving secrets to WikiLeaks.
Convicted of 5 espionage counts in WikiLeaks case.
Convicted of 5 theft counts in WikiLeaks case.
Prosecutors have tried to prove Mr Manning had “a general evil intent” and knew the classified material would be seen by the terrorist group al-Qaeda.
Legal experts said an aiding-the-enemy conviction could set a precedent because Mr Manning did not directly give the classified material to al-Qaeda – however his acquittal could also give heart to any other whistleblowers, supporters believe.
“Most of the aiding-the-enemy charges historically have had to do with POWs who gave information to the Japanese during World War II, or to Chinese communists during Korea, or during the Vietnam War,” Duke law school professor and former air force judge advocate Scott Silliman said.
The verdict follows about two months of conflicting testimony and evidence.
Mr Manning has admitted sending more than 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and other material, including several battlefield video clips, to WikiLeaks while in Iraq in early 2010. WikiLeaks published most of the material online.
Bradley Manning: traitor or whistleblower?
Mr Manning has been called a "traitor" for publicly posting information that the US government said could jeopardise national security and intelligence operations.
Army prosecutors say US security was damaged when WikiLeaks published combat videos of an attack by an American Apache helicopter gunship, diplomatic cables and secret details on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
The 25-year-old has admitted to sending more than 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and other material including several battlefield video clips to WikiLeaks.
Mr Manning claims he sent the material to expose war crimes and deceitful diplomacy.
However he said he did not think the information would harm the US, adding that the vast majority of material released was not classified, and was more embarrassing than damaging for the government.
Prosecutors showed that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden obtained copies of some of the documents between 2010/2011.
Mr Manning pleaded guilty in February to 10 counts, including less serious military versions of all the federal charges.
His admitted offences carry prison terms punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors accepted just one of his pleas and chose to continue prosecuting Mr Manning for the other offences.
The video included footage of a 2007 US Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed at least nine men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver.
Mr Manning said he sent the material to expose war crimes and deceitful diplomacy.
In closing arguments last week, defence attorney David Coombs portrayed Mr Manning as a naive whistleblower who never intended for the material to be seen by the enemy. Mr Manning claims he selected material that would not harm troops or national security.
Prosecutors called him an “anarchist hacker” and “traitor” who indiscriminately leaked classified information he had sworn to protect.
They said al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden obtained copies of some of the documents WikiLeaks published before he was killed by US Navy Seals in 2011.
A conviction on the most serious charge, if upheld on appeal, “would essentially create a new way of aiding the enemy in a very indirect fashion, even an unintended fashion,” said David JR Frakt, air force reserve lieutenant colonel and visiting professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh.
In bringing the charge against Mr Manning, prosecutors cited the civil war-era court-martial of private Henry Vanderwater, a Union soldier convicted in 1863 of aiding the enemy by giving a Virginia newspaper a command roster that was then published.
Mr Coombs countered that the civil war-era cases involved coded messages disguised as advertisements. He said all modern cases involve military members who gave the enemy information directly.
Mr Manning also is charged with eight federal espionage act violations, five federal theft counts, and two federal computer fraud and abuse act violations, each punishable by up to 10 years; and five military counts of violating a lawful general regulation, punishable by up to two years each.
What did Bradley Manning leak?
Channel 4 News looks at some of the most significant revelations from Bradley Manning's leak of almost 400,000 Iraq war files, 90,000 Afghan war files and 250,000 diplomatic cables in 2010.
Dubbed "collateral murder" by WikLeaks, a secret video leaked by the organisation showed US air crew laughing after launching an air strike that killed a dozen people.
This was the first leak thought to be from Private Manning in April 2010 and showed that the US armed forces withheld information about how journalists and civilians died.
Citizen death toll
After years of being told that there was no record of the number of people killed in Iraq, information leaked by Private Manning led WikiLeaks to reveal that detailed accounts were kept after all.
We now know that of the 109,000 deaths logged over six years in Iraq, 66,081 were unarmed civilians.
The London-based group Iraq Body Count said it identified around 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths from the data contained in the leaked war logs.
As a result of the leaked war logs, Iraq Body Count identified around 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths.
The Iraq war files also revealed evidence of the torture of detainees.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Dispatches analysed the 400,000 files and found over 300 classified reports alleging abuse by coalition forces on Iraqi prisoners, even after the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Reports detailed US soldiers and marines assaulting prisoners, forcing them to dig for home-made bombs and other mistreatments.
One incident was recorded in 2007: "Detainee stated he received the following abuse: 1) Jabbed with a screwdriver in the right side and upper back 2) Struck with cables and hoses in the arms, back, and legs 3) Electrocuted 4) Sodomised with a hose."
'Blind eye' to abuse
But as shocking as the torture itself, was information about how incidents of abuse by Iraqis were reported - but not investigated.
The files appear to reveal that the US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of torture, and even murder, by Iraqi police.
There appeared to be more than 1,300 individual cases of torture and abuse carried out by Iraqis on Iraqi prisoners at police stations and army bases.
The figures imply that coalition forces either witnessed or reported on themselves.
Beatings, electric shock treatments, sodomy - all of it was recorded daily.
But according to two military orders given to US troops after Abu Ghraib, troops were told they should report Iraqi-on-Iraqi abuse - but that if coalition forces were not involved, that "no further investigating will be conducted".
Child abuse in Afghanistan
Leaked diplomatic cables showed that US defence contractor DynCorp was complicit in child trafficking activities, and had boys, obtained by child traffickers, for entertainment at a party for Afghan security recruits.
The revelation has contributed to calls for US defence contractors to be removed from Afghanistan.