A military judge acquitted Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy and convicted him of multiple counts of violating the Espionage Act on Tuesday. The verdict marks the end of a three-year-long ordeal that began with Manning's arrest in Iraq and subsequent detainment in Kuwait and Quantico, Virginia.
Sentencing hearings begin on Wednesday morning to determine exactly how many years Manning will serve in prison. Being acquitted of the aiding the enemy charge is a victory for the defense, as it carried a maximum penalty of life in prison. Nevertheless, Manning faces up to 90 years for his convictions, and many seem to agree that there's a good chance he could die in prison. During his detention before the trial, Manning was kept in solitary confinement and forced to strip naked as he was deemed a suicide risk. This mistreatment became the impetus for much outrage directed at the military, and eventually, Lind determined that Manning had been treated unlawfully and said that 112 days would be shaved off his ultimate sentence.
It was always a point of contention whether Manning should be detained at all, though. Supporters maintain that Manning was a whistleblower for handing over 700,000 diplomatic cables, battlefield reports and videos to WikiLeaks. Manning's defense similarly said that this was a selfless attempt to expose the injustices of war. The military and the government, however, have described Manning's actions as the work of a "high-tech terrorist" who was seeking attention and put the lives of Americans at risk in the process. Manning ultimately decided to put his fate in the hands of military judge rather than a jury of his peers and pleaded guilty to ten out the 21 total charges.
With the trial over and the verdict read, we'll start to get a clearer picture of what Manning's legacy will be for whistleblowers to come. We've already seen Edward Snowden follow in his footsteps with the leak of NSA documents. Snowden subsequently fled the country, he said, to avoid the type of mistreatment we saw Manning endure. However, now that we know the severity of the punishment, some would be whistleblowers will surely think twice before exposing state secrets. Of course, that's just what the government wanted when they strung Manning up before the world.