FORT MEADE, Md. —A military judge has ruled that Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning violated the Espionage Act when he gave a trove of classified material to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. But Army Col. Denise Lind found Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, a charge that carries a possible life sentence.
She did not offer any explanation of her findings.
Manning, wearing a dress uniform in the small courtroom at Fort Meade, did not react when Lind read the verdict. The sentencing phase of his court-martial is scheduled to begin Wednesday.
Considered a whistle blower by some, a traitor by others, he now could be sentenced to decades in prison. The one-time Marylander, who served as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010, has acknowledged giving hundreds of thousands of classified war logs , diplomatic cables, and battlefield video footage to WikiLeaks to post online.
The eight-week court-martial focused largely on his state of mind and his intent. Manning said during a pre-trial hearing that he wanted to provoke a public debate about U.S. military and foreign policy. Prosecutors said Manning was seeking "worldwide notoriety" when he leaked the materials.
His lawyers said he was well intentioned but naive.
Analysts said a guilty finding of aiding the enemy would have expanded the definition of the charge.
Traditionally, the charge has been used to prosecute individuals suspected of giving information directly to a U.S. adversary. Manning was accused of giving material to WikiLeaks to publish on the Internet. Prosecutors argued that he knew from his training that al Qaida and other enemies would see it there.
Scott L. Silliman, a professor at Duke Law School and director emeritus of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, said the verdict is not a surprise. He noted that military prosecutors unlike civilian prosecutors have to charge all possible crimes.
"Giving aid to the enemy is a very serious charge. It's a very heavy burden of proof that Manning knew the information he was releasing would be used by the enemy...
"It's not going to have an effect as a matter of law, but the dialogue is going to go on. It's going to continue to be how you look at Bradley Manning: Is he a hero? Is he someone who did great damage to the country?" Silliman said.
"Everyone knew he would be convicted, he pleaded guilty to a number of charges. It's not a surprise."
Before the verdict, Manning supporters rallied outside the main gate to Fort Meade, waving signs that read "Free Bradley" and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word truth.
Manning did not testify during the court-martial.
The Oklahoma native lived with his aunt in Potomac and studied at Montgomery College before he enlisted in the Army in 2007.
He served in Iraq from 2009 until his arrest in Baghdad in May 2010. He has been detained since the arrest.