FORT MEADE, Md. — Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s fate was in the hands of a military judge Friday after nearly two months of conflicting portrayals of the soldier: a traitor who gave WikiLeaks classified secrets for worldwide attention and a young, naive intelligence analyst who wanted people to know about the atrocities of war.
Judge Col. Denise Lind started deliberating on the 21 charges Manning faces, but she did not say when she would rule, only that she will give the public one day’s notice before her announcement. The most serious charge is aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence in prison.
During closing arguments, defense attorney David Coombs said Manning was negligent in releasing classified material, but did not know al-Qaida would see it and did not have “evil intent,” a key point prosecutors must prove to convict Manning of aiding the enemy.
Prosecutors contended Manning, 25, knew the material would be seen across the globe, even by Osama bin Laden, when he started the leaks in late 2009. Manning said the leaks didn’t start until February the following year.
“Worldwide distribution, that was his goal,” said the military’s lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein. “Pfc. Manning knew the entire world included the enemy, from his training. He knew he was giving it to the enemy, specifically al-Qaida.”
After Coombs finished his three-hour argument, there was a smattering of applause from Manning supporters, who were quickly hushed by the judge.
“All right, that’s enough,” Lind said. “This is a court of law. I would ask, please, that you keep your reactions muted.”
The verdict and any sentence will be reviewed, and could be reduced, by the commander of the Military District of Washington, currently Maj. Gen. Jeffery S. Buchanan.