FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Tuesday’s verdict means Pfc. Bradley Manning could face 20 years to life in prison for the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history. Here is some other fallout from the case:
OTHERS WHO WERE DISCIPLINED
Other military careers were ruined besides Manning’s. Fifteen people were disciplined as the result of an Army investigation into the whole affair. Officials decline to name them, tell what their misconduct was or how they were punished because of a long-standing policy of protecting the privacy of personnel, said Lt. Col. Stephen J. Platt, an Army spokesman.
But court documents and testimony revealed Manning’s superiors ignored or mishandled his mental health and behavior problems — including numerous outbursts and an email he sent a superior with a photo of himself dressed as a woman. His problems should have disqualified him from going to Iraq and should have prompted the immediate suspension of his security clearance after he got there, the defense said. Witnesses also depicted an intelligence unit slightly out of control, with poor leadership and analysts playing music, movies and video games on their work computers in the war zone.
TIGHTENED COMPUTER SECURITY
The Defense Department is still working on tightening security. It has made it harder for one person acting alone to download material from a classified network and place it on an unclassified one. That is, the use of thumb drives, CDs and other removable media is now limited and must be approved by supervisors. Manning brought a rewritable CD labeled “Lady Gaga” to work, erased the music and downloaded government documents onto it.
The department is still implementing other steps such as a system to make it easier to trace action back to the user, a smart card system to limit access to government websites containing sensitive information, and a program to identify insider threats, said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman.
DAMAGE TO NATIONAL SECURITY
The release of diplomatic cables, warzone logs and videos embarrassed the U.S. and its allies, but no information pointing to specific damage to national security or interests beyond that. U.S. officials warned of dire consequences in the days immediately after the first disclosures in July 2010. But a Pentagon review later suggested those fears might have been overblown. Indeed, the Pentagon assessment determined in August 2010 that the initial leaks had not compromised intelligence sources or practices, although it said the disclosures could still cause significant damage to U.S. security interests. No further report has been publicly released. The judge in Manning’s case did not allow testimony during the trial phase on whether damage had been done, but both sides can present that kind of evidence during sentencing.
Whistleblower and transparency advocates have decried Manning being charged with aiding the enemy, saying it could set a dangerous precedent for freedom of the press in the age of the Internet.
Manning’s prosecutors argued that making information available on the Internet — whether by giving it to WikiLeaks, or putting it in a personal blog or releasing it to newspaper — can amount to aiding the enemy. The defense called that a “slippery slope” that could discourage those who want to expose government wrongdoing by taking information to the press.
“This is a new situation that courts have not yet had to deal with,” said national security lawyer Mark Zaid.
He said aiding the enemy “historically was literally giving information, such as ‘Here’s the location of troops across enemy lines,’ to the enemy so the enemy could react. It was never intended nor envisioned to deal with the current situations we have.”
Victor Hansen, associate dean at the New England School of Law in Boston, said any precedent would be in the details of judge Col. Denise Lind’s verdict.
“What factual information was introduced at trial that she thinks links into the specific intent behind his actions? It’s a higher standard than saying, ‘Well, it’s possible this could have gone into enemy hands.’ There has to be a more particularized intent on his part that he did it for that reason.”
Associated Press videographer Sagar Meghani contributed to this report from Washington.