Bradley Manning will face the charge of “aiding the enemy,” after a military judge ruled today that the charge will not be dropped.  Defense attorneys for Manning had earlier filed a motion for this and other charges to be dismissed, while human rights groups also called for the aiding the enemy charge to be dropped.

From the NY Times:

The military judge in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning decided on Thursday not to drop a charge accusing Private Manning of “aiding the enemy.” If found guilty, Private Manning could face life in prison plus an additional 154 years.

[…]

The aiding-the-enemy charge carries the death penalty, but the government had said it would not pursue capital punishment, but rather life in prison with no chance of parole. Under military law, aiding the enemy applies to “any person who aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things; or without proper authority, knowingly harbors or protects or gives intelligence to, or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly.”

The judge, Col. Denise Lind, said the government had provided sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Private Manning knowingly gave information to certain enemy groups such as Al Qaeda when he passed hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks in 2009.

The prosecution argued earlier this month that Manning’s leak did aid the enemy, citing leaked documents on Wikileaks referenced by al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.  It also presented a 2009 “Most Wanted Leaks” list and several Wikileaks tweets as part of its evidence that Manning’s actions were influenced by the anti-secrecy website.

Prosecutors also argued that with Manning’s intelligence experience and extensive training on safeguarding classified material, he knew that his leak would be beneficial to the enemy.

Manning’s defense in turn argued that the Army private did not knowingly aid the enemy, but instead leaked the documents only to prompt debate about US foreign policy.

From the Washington Post:

But on the main charge, Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, argued that Manning could have sold the documents, which included battlefield reports and State Department diplomatic cables, or given them directly to the enemy. Instead, he gave them to WikiLeaks in an attempt to “spark reform” and provoke debate.

Coombs also said Manning had no way of knowing whether Al-Qaida would access the secret-spilling website and said a military report from 2008 showed the government didn’t even know.

“What better proof that Pfc. Manning wouldn’t know then that the United States Army doesn’t know if the enemy goes to WikiLeaks,” Coombs said.

Manning already admitted to leaking hundreds of thousands of documents and offered to plead guilty to ten of the lesser charges related to espionage and computer fraud counts in a pre-trial hearing.  But prosecutors refused to drop the more serious charge of aiding the enemy.

Today’s ruling only determined that the charge itself will still stand.

As Buzzfeed notes, “under the United States Rules for Court-Martial, a military judge must view all evidence for motions for finding of not guilty “in the light most favorable to the prosecution.”  The judge cited this in her decision.

The prosecution will still have to prove its case on the charge that Manning knowingly aided the enemy.