The website that served as Pfc. Bradley Manning's conduit for spilled U.S. secrets described his espionage conviction Tuesday as "dangerous national security extremism" while other supporters expressed relief that he was acquitted of the most serious charge. Among officials who consider him a traitor, at least one said justice was served.
From the courtroom to world capitals, people absorbed the meaning of a verdict that cleared the soldier of a charge of aiding the enemy, which would have carried a potential life sentence, but convicted him on other counts that, together, could also mean a life behind bars. Manning faces up to 128 years in prison if given maximum penalties in a sentencing hearing that starts Wednesday.
In Washington, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee welcomed the verdict in a tweet also addressing the case of Edward Snowden, the leaker of National Security Agency surveillance programs. "Justice was served today," Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan said. "Pfc Manning (like Snowden) is a criminal who abused classified info, violated public trust, & harmed US security."
That point was echoed in a joint statement he released later with Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland saying more work must be done "to reduce the ability of criminals like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden to harm our national security."
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist, commentator and former civil rights lawyer who first reported Snowden's leaks, said Manning's acquittal on the charge of aiding the enemy represented a "tiny sliver of justice."
Christian Stroebele, a German lawmaker for the opposition Green Party, tweeted: "Manning has won respect by uncovering the U.S.'s murderous warfare in Iraq."
But the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said the verdict is a chilling warning to whistleblowers, "against whom the Obama administration has been waging an unprecedented offensive," and threatens the future of investigative journalism because intimidated sources might fall quiet.
And WikiLeaks, which brought Manning's trove of secrets to light, saw nothing to cheer. "Dangerous national security extremism from the Obama administration," the site tweeted.
Outside the courtroom, Manning supporters gave his lawyer, David Coombs, a round of applause and shouted "thank you." But they also pressed him on what the verdict meant for the soldier's fate.
"Today is a good day," Coombs said, "but Bradley is by no means out of the fire."
Manning acknowledged giving WikiLeaks more than 700,000 battlefield reports and diplomatic cables, and video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians in Iraq, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. He said during a pretrial hearing he leaked the material to expose U.S military "bloodlust" and diplomatic deceitfulness but did not believe his actions would harm the country. His defense portrayed him as a naive but well-intentioned figure. Prosecutors branded him an anarchist and traitor.