The military judge presiding over the trial of Bradley Manning decided Thursday to retain a charge accusing the Army private of “aiding the enemy.” Manning’s defenders sought to have the charge dismissed earlier in the week.
Manning denied that he was guilty of aiding the enemy when he admitted in February to having leaked hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks. He pleaded guilty to 10 lesser offenses that could have put him in prison for up to 20 years, rather than the sentence of life in prison plus an additional 154 years that the current counts hold.
The aiding-the-enemy charge carries the death penalty, but the government had said it would not pursue capital punishment, but rather life in prison with no chance of parole. Under military law, aiding the enemy applies to “any person who aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things; or without proper authority, knowingly harbors or protects or gives intelligence to, or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly.”
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, said the government had provided sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Private Manning knowingly gave information to certain enemy groups such as Al Qaeda when he passed hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks in 2009.
The defense argued in court on Monday that Private Manning did not act voluntarily and deliberately in aiding the enemy when he leaked the documents. But Colonel Lind concluded that Private Manning did have “actual knowledge” that the intelligence he leaked would end up in the hands of the enemy.