Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence officer who released thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks, was acquitted of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge against him that potentially carried a life sentence — on Tuesday, according to NBC.
Col. Denise Lind, the judge in Manning's court martial trial, announced the verdict Tuesday morning in Fort Meade, Md. Manning had already pleaded guilty to 10 charges that carry prison sentences up to 20 years, as well as a dishonorable discharge, reports NBC.
Manning, 25, who identifies as gay and possibly transgender, was convicted of violating military code, including failing to obey an order or regulation, reports NBC. MSNBC noted that Manning could face up to 125 years in prison as a result of the other charges of which he was found guilty, including "espionage."
In 2010 as an Army intelligence officer, Manning released some 700,000 government documents and diplomatic cables that exposed widespread military and diplomatic injustices to the website WikiLeaks. Among the revelations Manning exposed was a video showing a U.S. helicopter crew laughing as they carried out an air strike that killed a dozen people — including a photographer and driver working for Reuters news agency — in Baghdad in 2007, according to the Guardian.
Manning's attorney argued that the young intelligence analyst was disillusioned by American policy he believed was bent on "killing and capturing people" when he released the documents in 2010, notes NBC. Manning's defense portrayed him as a naive but well-intentioned whistleblower.
But military officials said that Manning craved notoriety for his actions, and alleged that he was a traitor who knew that the documents he released to WikiLeaks would end up in the hands of American enemies, including Al Qaeda. That was the basis for the "aiding the enemy" charge, which can be punished with the death sentence. However, prosecutors announced they would not seek capital punishment, instead requesting life imprisonment for the whistleblower. The government also claims that Manning's leaked documents put his fellow soldiers at risk.