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Bradley Manning Not Guilty Of 'Aiding The Enemy'

NPR icon by Eyder Peralta
Mandel Ngan

This post was last updated at 1:41 p.m. ET.

Bradley Manning, the former intelligence analyst who perpetrated the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history, has been acquitted of the most serious charge against him.

Col. Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the case in Fort Meade, Md., found the Army private not guilty of aiding the enemy, when he released hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. The charge carried a possible punishment of life in prison.

Manning, however, was found guilty of other serious offenses including five charges of espionage and five charges of theft.

Kevin Gosztola, who has been covering the trial from the beginning for the liberal site Firedoglake, reports that if you add up the potential punishment for all the charges, Manning could be in jail for "over 100 years."

The sentencing phase of the trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow morning.

Update at 1:34 p.m. ET. Unprecedented Charge:

As The New York Times reads the verdict, beyond Manning, this trial could have implications for future leakers.

The "aiding the enemy" charge was unprecedented in a leak case, the Times explains, and it could have "significant long-term ramifications for investigative journalism in the Internet era."

The Times continues: "The government's theory was that providing defense-related information to an entity that published it for the world to see constituted aiding the enemy because the world includes adversaries, like members of Al Qaeda, who could read the documents online."

With her acquittal, Col. Lind obviously rejected that thinking.

Our Original Post Continues:

At about 1 p.m. ET., we're expecting to hear the verdict in the military trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning. The 25-year-old has already been escorted into the courtroom in Fort Meade, Md., and supporters have gathered outside to demand his freedom.

There are quite a few reporters and others inside the courtroom tweeting updates. Among them: Adam Klasfeld, of Courthouse News Service; Charlie Savage, of The New York Times, Kevin Gosztola, of Firedoglake; independent journalist Alexa O'Brien and activist Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

We'll update this post with the latest news as we get it.

Update at 1:08 p.m. ET. Bradley Manning Not Guilty:

According the AP and several reporters inside the court room, Bradley Manning has been acquitted of the most serious charge against him.

Update at 12:59 p.m. ET. Court Starting Soon:

Nathan Fuller tweets:

"Video feed is on. Court starting soon. #FreeBrad #Manning"

Update at 12:43 p.m. ET. Facing Jail Time:

Even if Manning is cleared of aiding the enemy, the most serious of the charges against him, he could still face some serious jail time.

Courthouse News Service reports that just adding up the potential punishment for the 10 counts Manning has admitted to, he could be looking at up to 20 years in prison.

Update at 12:36 p.m. ET. How We'll Get Word:

According to reports from inside the media operation center, we may have to wait until the judge is completely done reading her verdict before we get word of it.

Alexa O'Brien tweets:

"New PAO Officer says that people cannot leave media operations center to file outside, while Court is in session. #Manning"

The Internet is spotty, so that also may play a role. And the verdict could be complicated, so it might take a little while to sort through it. We'll let you know, once it is in, and we'll post again once we're sure we understand it.

Documents in the Manning case, by the way, are being posted by the military here.

Update at 12:16 p.m. ET. Let's Catch You Up:

If you haven't been paying attention here are some Cliff Notes:

-- Manning is facing 21 counts — including espionage and theft — in connection to biggest leak of classified information in the history of the United States.

-- The former intelligence analyst has already pleaded guilty to 10 of those counts. He has admitted to releasing more than 700,000 documents, including battlefield reports and U.S. embassy cables.

-- Manning has always denied the most serious charge he's facing — aiding the enemy, which is punishable with life in prison. As we've explained:

"The government argued that when Manning released information to WikiLeaks — instead of traditional news outlets — it was because he wanted the data to be available in an indiscriminate manner. The defense argued that Manning was a naive whistle-blower who wanted the information he leaked to spark a national discussion about war and diplomacy."

-- Manning opted to have a judge, instead of a jury decide his case. Col. Denise Lind said she will hand down her verdict at 1 p.m. ET.

-- If you want real-time reports from the court, there are a few people who have been covering the trail: Adam Klasfeld, of Courthouse News Service; Charlie Savage, of The New York Times, Kevin Gosztola, of Firedoglake and independent journalist Alexa O'Brien.

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