Fort Meade —
Coombs said during trial that Manning had no way of knowing whether al-Qaida would access the secret-spilling website and a 2008 counterintelligence report showed the government itself did not know much about WikiLeaks at the time.
An aiding the enemy charge for someone who didn't directly give an adversary information is extremely rare, and prosecutors had to cite a Civil War-era court-martial of a Union soldier when they brought the charge against Manning.
"I think certainly that a conviction on that charge would have had a ripple effect," said Lisa Windsor, a retired Army colonel and former judge advocate. "I think it would have had certainly a chilling effect on anyone in the military who might decide that this is some sort of freedom of speech or whistleblower thing that they needed to engage in."
The judge did not give any reasons for her verdict from the bench, but said she would release detailed written findings. She did not say when.
Manning acknowledged giving WikiLeaks more than 700,000 battlefield reports and diplomatic cables, and video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians in Iraq, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. Prosecutors branded him an anarchist and traitor.
The defense portrayed the Crescent, Okla., native as a "young, naive but good-intentioned" figure. Manning said during a pretrial hearing he leaked the material to expose U.S military "bloodlust" and diplomatic deceitfulness, but did not believe his actions would harm the country.
Besides the aiding the enemy acquittal, Manning was found not guilty of one espionage count involving his acknowledged leak of a video from a 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan. The judge found that prosecutors had not proved Manning leaked the video in late 2009. Manning said he started the leaks in February the following year.