A military judge on Tuesday found Private First Class Bradley Manning not guilty of the most serious charge aiding the enemy, but convicted him of espionage, theft and nearly every other count for giving secrets to WikiLeaks.
It is likely that Manning could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Manning is looking at up to 136 years behind bars if given maximum penalties in his sentencing hearing which begins on Wednesday. The sentencing hearing could take up most of August. The outcome of the sentencing is crucial for Manning and, on a wider scale, other future whistleblowers.
Judge army Col. Denise Lind deliberated over three days before reaching a decision that denied the government a precedent that media advocates had warned could have bigger implications for leak cases and investigative journalism dealing with national security issues. Media organizations and investigative journalists are breathing a sigh of relief at the acquittal as American democracy may have dodged a bullet.
Manning is one of a very short list of people that have ever been charged under the Espionage Act for leaking information to the media. Obama's administration is sending a clear message to media outlets and future leakers, beware because the government will go after you.
Manning's conviction can't be good for Edward Snowden and somewhere Julian Assange is still trying to make this story about him, but hopefully the air won't be knocked out of future whistleblowers.
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