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The US soldier who provided WikiLeaks with a cache of information on military activity in Afghanistan and Iraq has escaped his most serious charges, but will still face extensive jail time for espionage.
A military court has acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of providing intelligence to the enemy, a crime which could have landed the soldier in military prison on a life sentence.
In February Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him, including mishandling classified information, which could potentially bring decades behind bars.
Manning vaulted to the public eye when he was identified as the source of a massive collection of government intelligence and materials on military activities in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The collection was posted to the WikiLeaks disclosure site and was soon widely distributed on the internet.
Manning was soon arrested, with a manhunt also launched for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on unrelated charges of sexual misconduct. Assange has since taken asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK.
“We call those types of people that are willing to risk being a martyr for all the rest of us, we call those people heroes,” Assange said yesterday in an interview with CNN. "Bradley Manning is a hero."
That Manning was found not guilty of the most serious charges could provide some hope to Edward Snowden and future would-be whistleblowers fearing treason and other such charges for leaking confidential information to the press.
Snowden has been on the run since earlier this year when he outed himself as the source of data on the NSA PRISM spy programme. The only repository kept extensive records of data collected from major internet service providers and hosting firms.