FORT MEADE, MARYLAND — A verdict is approaching in the case of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors presented closing arguments Thursday with the defense to follow before the military judge issues a verdict.
The prosecution portrayed Bradley Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, as one who “put himself before his country” and sought notoriety by releasing what he knew were sensitive files that would end up in the hands of the enemy.
Aiding the enemy is the most serious charge Manning faces. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to life in prison. He has pleaded guilty to lesser charges of leaking the files. Those charges could get him 20 years in prison.
Earlier in the proceedings, Manning's attorneys argued he was young, naïve, and ignorant of the damage that releasing the files would cause. A defense witness also testified that releasing the material to WikiLeaks was no different from leaking it to a mainstream newspaper.
Prosecutors on Thursday attacked that premise, arguing that leaks to any publication are a crime. They noted Manning was in communication with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and had searched for information as solicited by the website.
Some of that information was seen by the late terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Those who sympathize with Bradley Manning see him not as a traitor or a spy, but as a whistleblower who benefited the public by exposing the actions of the U.S. government.
Nathan Fuller heads the Bradley Manning Support Network and has been following the court martial since it began last month.
“If the government gets what they're prosecuting, if they get that ruling, we're going to set a very dangerous precedent in essentially criminalizing whistleblowing. If it goes the other way, we're going to not send to jail for life a soldier who believes that we should know more about our wars abroad and what our government does with our tax dollars and hopefully that inspires the government to be more transparent on its own and if not, then others will have to make it public.”
Manning waived his right to have his case decided by a military jury and it will be the military judge who determines whether he is guilty or innocent of aiding the enemy.
Her decision is expected in the next few days.