After admitting he took the documents, Manning claimed he did it to save lives and actually did not think he would harm anyone. He also asserted that he screened what he gave away to ensure no one would be in danger. There is no way Manning could have possibly read and evaluated all the documents he stole and gave to WikiLeaks. The numbers are just too staggering.
Manning should not be seen as a hero or even a whistleblower. He violated the law and misused classified information. Regardless of his intent, this is indisputable.
This verdict should act as a warning to anyone who thinks that he or she alone is the ultimate judge of right and wrong. Particularly for the military, this is a seminal event. It confirms a major component of good order and discipline. The military cannot function properly if every service member thinks he can disobey rules, regulations, and orders with no expectation of adverse consequences.
The case will now proceed to the sentencing phase. If the military judge awards a punishment of more than one year’s confinement or a discharge from the service—both highly likely—the case will be reviewed by the convening authority and the military appellate courts.