Bradley Manning acquitted of most serious charge, "aiding the enemy," for giving classified information to WikiLeaks, but guilty on 19 other charges.
FORT MEADE, Md. – U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning has been acquitted of aiding the enemy for giving classified secrets to WikiLeaks, but convicted of a variety of other charges, including espionage.
The military judge hearing the case, Army Col. Denise Lind, announced the verdict Tuesday. Manning was convicted of six espionage counts, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge and other military infractions. He faces 136 years in prison for those convictions. Aiding the enemy was the most serious charge, and carried a possible life sentence.
His sentencing hearing is set to begin Wednesday.
The 25-year-old Crescent, Okla., native acknowledged giving the anti-secrecy website hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and videos in early 2010.
On Twitter, WikiLeaks called the verdict "A very serious new precedent for supplying information [to] the press" and "dangerous national security extremism from the Obama administration."
Hours before the verdict, about two dozen Manning supporters had gathered at Fort Meade, outside Baltimore, where the court-martial was being held. They wore "truth" T-shirts and waved signs, proclaiming their admiration for the former intelligence analyst who sent reams of classified information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Barbara Bridges, 43, of Baltimore dismissed the government's charges that Manning aided the enemy.
"He wasn't trying to aid the enemy. He was trying to give people the information they need so they can hold their government accountable," she said.
At a press conference Tuesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange blasted the verdict, calling it "a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism."
"This has never been a fair trial," Assange told journalists gathered at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
Prosecutors tried to prove Manning had "a general evil intent" and knew the classified material would be seen by the terrorist group al-Qaida. Legal experts said an aiding-the- enemy conviction could set a precedent because Manning did not directly give the classified material to al-Qaida.
"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. Manning 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 while in Iraq in early 2010. WikiLeaks published most of the material online.
The video included footage of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed at least nine men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver.
Manning did not testify during the trial, but has said he sent the material to expose war crimes and deceitful diplomacy. In closing arguments last week, defense attorney David Coombs portrayed Manning as a naive whistleblower who never intended for the material to be seen by the enemy. Manning claims he selected material that wouldn't 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-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden obtained copies of some of the documents WikiLeaks published before he was killed by U.S. Navy Seals in 2011.
According to the Associated Press, prosecutors said during the trial Manning relied on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for guidance on what secrets to "harvest" for the organization, starting within weeks of his arrival in Iraq in late 2009.
Federal authorities are looking into whether Assange can be prosecuted. He has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex-crimes allegations.
This is a breaking news story. Check back with MSN News for updates. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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