July 31: WikiLeaks on Tuesday described Bradley Manning's espionage convictions as “dangerous national security extremism from the Obama administration.”
That was the immediate response from WikiLeaks on Twitter after Manning was found guilty of five espionage counts and other offenses but cleared of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy.
Others who considered Mr. Manning wrongly charged had a measured response.
An Amnesty International statement accused the U.S. government of “misplaced priorities.”
“The government's pursuit of the ‘aiding the enemy' charge was a serious overreach of the law, not least because there was no credible evidence of Mr. Manning's intent to harm the United States by releasing classified information to WikiLeaks,” said Widney Brown, the rights group's senior director of international law and policy.
“The government's priorities are upside down. The U.S. government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence. Yet they decided to prosecute Mr. Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing — reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government,” Mr. Brown said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned of intimidation of potential whistleblowers.
“While we're relieved that Mr. Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Since he already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information, which carry significant punishment — it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”