Acquitted of the most serious charge against him, Private first class Bradley Manning still faces up to 136 years in prison for leaking government secrets to WikiLeaks, and his fate rests with a judge who began hearing arguments on Wednesday in the sentencing phase of his court-martial.
The former intelligence analyst was convicted of 20 of 22 charges for sending hundreds of thousands of government and diplomatic secrets to the anti-secrecy website, but he was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, which alone could have meant life in prison without parole.
“We’re not celebrating,” defense attorney David Coombs said. “Ultimately, his sentence is all that really matters.”
The judge prohibited both sides from presenting evidence during trial about any actual damage the leaks caused to national security and troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but lawyers will be allowed to bring that up at sentencing.
The release of diplomatic cables, warzone logs and videos embarrassed the US and its allies, but it was unclear how much damage it caused to national security beyond that. US officials warned of dire consequences in the days immediately after the first disclosures in July 2010, but a Pentagon review later suggested those fears might have been overblown. The judge also restricted evidence about Manning’s motives.
Manning testified during a pre-trial hearing that he leaked the material to expose US military ‘bloodlust’ and diplomatic deceitfulness, but did not believe his actions would harm the country.