NEW: 900 Afghans identified in Manning leaks; unclear if any harmed, ex-general says
He escaped a life sentence without parole when he was acquitted of aiding the enemy
Manning was found guilty on 20 counts that include violations of the Espionage Act
Civil rights organizations have come out in support of Manning
When an attorney involved in Pfc. Bradley Manning’s sentencing hearing made reference Wednesday to something being “normal” in the WikiLeaks case, the former general promptly cut him off.
“There was nothing about WikiLeaks that was normal,” said retired Army Brig. Gen. Robert Carr, a 31-year veteran.
The prosecution called Carr to testify about his time with the Information Review Task Force put together when WikiLeaks first started releasing the documents leaked by Manning.
The task force was charged with determining if any coalition members, intelligence sources or methods that had been put at risk by the leaks.
About 900 Afghans were identified in some way in the documents, Carr said, but he didn’t say if any of them were harmed.
Asked if Manning had made the jobs of junior intelligence analysts more difficult by damaging their superiors’ trust in them, Carr said it was “hugely important to empower these young intel analysts.”
As Manning’s sentencing phase began Wednesday, the convicted leaker has already tallied 1,274 days behind bars.
The question now is how many more of the potential 136 years he’ll serve.
The military will give Manning credit for each of his 1,162 days of pre-trial confinement, plus the judge, Col. Denise Lind, credited Manning with an additional 112 days for the harsh treatment he suffered while being held at a Marine Corps Base Quantico brig.
The defense has also filed motions to have four of the charges on which he was found guilty merged into two. Lind isn’t expected to rule on that motion before Friday.
Convictions and acquittal
Lind acquitted Manning of the most grievous charge of aiding the enemy. Had she convicted him of that one charge, he could have spent life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Manning still faces the prospect of a lengthy prisoner term. He was found guilty of 20 counts that include violations of the Espionage Act. Twelve of them carry maximum sentences of 10 years each.
Lind may decide not to slap him with the maximum for each count. She may rule that he’ll serve the sentences concurrently, rather than consecutively.
It may take several days before she reaches a decision.
Manning was convicted of stealing and disseminating about 750,000 pages of classified documents and videos to WikiLeaks. The leaks dealt with everything from U.S. military strategy in Iraq to State Department cables outlining foreign relationships. They also included a secret military video from the Iraq war.
WikiLeaks has never confirmed the soldier was the source of its information.
The military accused him of putting lives in danger, saying some of the material was found in Osama bin Laden’s compound.
Lind, in acquitting Manning of the main charge, said he didn’t know that al Qaeda would get the material and therefore did not aid the enemy.
Manning said he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing.
WikiLeaks supported his claim in a statement Tuesday blasting the convictions on the other counts as “a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism.”
“It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage.’ “
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to talk about the verdict live on the Internet on Wednesday, according to a tweet from WikiLeaks’ confirmed feed.
Civil rights organizations also came out in support of Manning as a hero of free speech.
“The only reason why the government decided to proceed with this trial is so that it could pursue this dangerous theory that equates leaks to the press with aiding the enemy,” said ACLU spokesman Ben Winzer.
Others saw the acquittal on the main charge as a victory for free speech.
“It shows that a really very junior enlisted person can do battle with the federal government in a case where the government is really mad as hell about what happened here, throws everything it has at him, and its biggest charge fizzles,” said Gene Fidell from the National Institute of Military Justice.
During Manning’s sentencing hearing, Congress will convene a hearing on the future of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs in the wake of a second major intelligence leak: Edward Snowden’s leaks of records to journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Greenwald, who writes for the British daily newspaper The Guardian, believes Manning’s convictions are evidence of differential justice, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday.
He said the soldier was just doing the job journalists should do to make government transparent to Americans.
Greenwald compared Manning to famed journalist Bob Woodward, who gained international fame when he broke the iconic Watergate wiretapping scandal. Its cover-up led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
“Bob Woodward has written book after book after book and has become extremely rich by publishing secrets way more sensitive than anything Bradley Manning ever published,” Greenwald said.
The difference in the eyes of U.S. justice, in Greenwald’s opinion: Woodward is well connected with senior officials who leak to him.
Manning, he said, is not.
CNN’s Barbara Starr wrote and reported from Washington; Ben Brumfield wrote and reported from Atlanta; CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter, Ashley Fantz and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.