The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 30, 2013

Bradley Manning acquitted of aiding the enemy

(Continued)

The government said Manning had sophisticated security training and broke signed agreements to protect the secrets. He even had to give a presentation on operational security during his training after he got in trouble for posting a YouTube video about what he was learning.

The lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, said Manning knew the material would be seen by al-Qaida, a key point prosecutor needed to prove to get an aiding the enemy conviction. Even Osama bin Laden had some of the digital files at his compound when he was killed.

Some of Manning's supporters attended nearly every day of two-month trial, many of them protesting outside the Fort Meade gates each day before the court-martial. They wore T-shirts with the word "truth" on them, blogged, tweeted and raised money for Manning's defense. One supporter was banned from the trial because the judge said he made online threats.

Hours before the verdict, about two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the gates of the military post, proclaiming their admiration for Manning.

"He wasn't trying to aid the enemy. He was trying to give people the information they need so they can hold their government accountable," said Barbara Bridges, of Baltimore.

On its official Twitter account, WikiLeaks blasted the verdict and the Obama administration, calling it "dangerous national security extremism."

The court-martial unfolded as another low-level intelligence worker, Edward Snowden, revealed U.S. secrets about surveillance programs. Snowden, a civilian employee, told The Guardian his motives were similar to Manning's, but he said his leaks were more selective.

Manning's supporters believed a conviction for aiding the enemy would have a chilling effect on leakers who want to expose wrongdoing by giving information to websites and the media.

Before Snowden, Manning's case was the most high-profile espionage prosecution for the Obama administration, which has been criticized for its crackdown on leakers.

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