Colonel Denise Lind has announced [PDF] that she found U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning “guilty” of five counts of violating the vaguely-worded Espionage Act, among other charges -- carrying a possible sentence of over 100 years imprisonment -- for providing information to journalists including those at Wikileaks. Manning had been prosecuted for over 20 charges, including “aiding the enemy.” Manning had pled guilty to 10 lesser offenses.
Manning faced possible life imprisonment were he to have been found guilty of the charge of “aiding the enemy,” which U.S. government prosecutors claimed he did since material Manning is said to have leaked was made available to Al Qaeda following its publication by Wikileaks. (Glenn Greenwald has suggested that Bob Woodward published “far more sensitive” information – which actually was read by Osama bin Laden – than Wikileaks did.)
Manning is just one of eight whistle-blowers to be charged under the Espionage Act by the Obama administration – more than twice as many as all other presidents combined – demonstrating an unprecedented campaign against those who expose government wrong-doing. It also represents an assault on the freedom of the press, since one significant impact will be that fewer whistle-blowers will be as likely to go to the media with previously undisclosed evidence of U.S. government misdeeds. As Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project said, “[I]t seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future."
Manning may be responsible for shedding more light on the secret and dark workings of U.S. foreign policy than any other individual in history. Manning released the “Collateral Murder” video showing U.S. war crimes in Iraq, the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diary, the Guantanamo Files, the CIA Red Cell memo on U.S. exportation of terrorism, and perhaps most well-known, thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables that Wikileaks made available – in cooperation with several major media outlets – under the name “Cablegate.”
These cables have shed light on many disconcerting aspects of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean, including U.S. behind-the-scenes management of the U.N. occupation of Haiti in the face of Brazilians’ misgivings about the mission; U.S. efforts to create a hemisphere-wide version of the “U.S.A. Patriot Act”; U.S. pushback against unfavorable news coverage related to its response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake; that the U.S. government aided U.S. companies in opposing a raise in Haiti’s minimum wage; U.S. pressure against Venezuela’s Petrocaribe initiative; and internal State Department concerns over Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla – currently Honduras’ National Police Director – related to his suspected involvement in death squad activity 10 years ago, among many others. Because of the cables we also learned that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked State Department staff to spy on and collect DNA from dignitaries, and wanted to know what medication Argentine president Cristina Fernández is on and “How many drinks can [then-president of Haiti René] Préval consume before he shows signs of inebriation?”