Bradley Manning has been acquitted of aiding the enemy and convicted of espionage for leaking thousands of classified U.S. military documents to Wikileaks.

Judge Colonel Denise Lind, a military judge, declared Manning ‘not guilty of aiding the enemy and not guilty of unauthorized possession of information of national defense,’ reports CNN. If Manning had been found guilty of "aiding the enemy," there is speculation that the verdict would profoundly effect the ethics and laws involved in American journalism.

Manning was, however, found guilty of the 20 other charges filed against him, and his combined sentence could add up to a maximum of 136 years of prison time. The sentencing hearing is due to begin on Wednesday.

Private First Class Manning, who was first arrested in 2010, was accused of leaking classified information pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pled guilty to two lesser charges earlier this year. At the time, Manning read a statement detailing his thought process and the actions leading up to his passing on of information to Wikileaks.

“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables, this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general, as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan. I also believed a detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time, by different sectors of society, might cause society to re-evaluate the need, or even the desire to engage in CT and COIN operations that ignored the complex dynamics of the people living in the affected environment each day,” Manning told the court in January.

Manning insisted that his actions were not driven by any sort of ill will towards the United Statess, and that he acted as a whistleblower, not a spy.

Julian Assange, the Wikileaks mastermind, released a statement shortly after the verdict, writing that Manning should be classified as a whistleblower instead of guilty of espionage. “This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’,” Assange declared in his statement.

Assange continues to label President Obama a hypocrite for running on a platform of transparency and then labeling Manning a criminal. Assange also questioned the nature of Manning’s trial, claiming that Manning never had the opportunity of a fair trial. “The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial,” he wrote.

Other organizations have come out in support of Manning after the verdict was announced. “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 Maning’s intent to harm the USA by releasing classified information to Wikileaks,” said Widney Brown, the Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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