Bradley Manning acquitted of aiding the enemy, but could still go to jail for over a century


(Patrick Semansky/AP)

Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old accused of handing over sensitive government files to WikiLeaks, is not guilty of aiding the enemy under military law, a judge has ruled.

Manning faced 21 counts in total, but was convicted on five counts of espionage and 14 other charges. That includes one of Manning's earlier guilty pleas to a watered-down set of espionage charges. He'll be sentenced tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

While "aiding the enemy" was the most serious charge Manning faced, his conviction on the other counts still carries a possible penalty of more than a century in prison, according to reports.

Today marks the first time a court has ruled on the Espionage Act during President Obama's aggressive pursuit of administration leakers. As we explained last week, Manning's conviction under the act sets an important precedent. Now that it's been proven to work in trials, the act could become used more liberally by the White House.

It's also important to point out that even though Manning might wind up in jail for over a century, that's also a theoretical outcome. He may serve less jail time depending on how the sentencing goes.

Either way, it'll likely be some time before Manning breathes air as a free man again.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.

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Brian Fung · July 30, 2013