The verdict against WikiLeaks informant Bradley Manning is unsurprising: Even if his actions are morally justified, he is a betrayer of secrets.
Bradley Manning cannot have seriously counted on an acquittal. The young private in the American army admitted that he stole secret data from the U.S. military and Department of State and shared it with the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. He must have known that he was breaking laws and risking quite a few years in prison. And now it has come to that.
One can justifiably see Manning as a morally motivated person who wanted to expose serious crimes in the American military. That changes nothing about the fact that he is a betrayer of secrets according to the letter of the law. The judge surely had no other choice than to declare him guilty.
Nonetheless, she rejected the most absurd charge against Manning. That he had the intention of helping “the enemy” — that is to say, al-Qaida — was a malicious and presumptuous charge based on flimsy arguments.
The verdict is also a warning for all those who sit at computers of the American government and might feel themselves called to enlighten the world about real or perceived wrongdoings. They can claim ethical motives as loudly as they can; from the Obama government they can expect little mercy. Edward Snowden now knows what may happen to him.