Manning verdict a relief to potential whistleblowers

 
Pte Bradley Manning is led out of the courtroom after his espionage conviction in Fort Meade, Maryland 30 July 2013 A long sentence for Manning will still send a message to any young idealistic computer experts who might be tempted to follow in his footsteps.

Perhaps the verdict in the trial is little comfort to Pte First Class Bradley Manning, but it will be a relief to many who campaign for the freedom of information.

The most serious charge against him - that he aided America's enemies - was also the count that carried the most serious implications for others.

If Pte Manning had been found guilty of "aiding the enemy" it would have extended the scope of a charge that in the past has been reserved for deliberate treason and direct contact with an enemy power.

The Wikileaks disclosures

The prosecution argued that Pte Manning knew the information he leaked would end up on the internet and that al-Qaeda would be able to read it there.

They also argued that the raid on Bin Laden's compound revealed that he was indeed keen to read such leaks.

If Pte Manning had been found guilty of this charge, the way would have been opened to treat the public leaking of any secrets as treason.

Any enemy, after all, can trawl the internet, or indeed watch TV or read a newspaper or a book.

So there will be some sighs of relief that the judge found that a bit of a stretch and has not gone down this route.

But Pte Manning himself has been found guilty of charges which carry a possible sentence much longer than any lifetime.

The court will still send a message to any young idealistic computer experts who might be tempted to follow in his footsteps.

 
Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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