Posted Aug 21, 2013 02:22 pm CDT
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.
In announcing the sentence, the judge overseeing the case, Army Col. Denise Lind, said that in addition to the time, Manning’s rank will be reduced, and he will forfeit his pay and benefits. He’ll also be dishonorably discharged, according to CNN and the Associated Press.
The AP described the post-sentence scene, reporting that guards hurried Manning out of the courtroom while a handful of supporters shouted from the back: “We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley!” and “You’re our hero!”
The American Civil Liberties Union decried the sentence as too harsh.
“When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system,” Ben Wizner, head of the ACLU’s speech and technology project, is quoted saying.
Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, the defense analyst who leaked the secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, tells the Associated Press in a separate story that Manning will always be an inspiration of civil and moral courage. He described Manning as “one more casualty of a horrible, wrongful war.”
Speaking in support of the sentence was Necessary Secrets author Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute.
“The sentence is a tragedy for Bradley Manning, but it is one he brought upon himself,” he’s quoted saying. “It will certainly serve to bolster deterrence against other potential leakers.”
During closing arguments at Manning’s trial earlier this week, military prosecutors argued that his illegal leaks severely damage U.S. secret intelligence. They asked that he be sentenced to 60 years in prison. He faced up to 90 years.
“There may be no soldier in the history of the Army who displayed such an extreme disregard,” Army Capt. Joe Morrow was quoted saying. “At least 60 years is justified. Pfc. Manning is young. He deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in prison.”
His lawyers asked for no more than 25 years, when many of the documents Manning leaked would be declassified. Defense lawyer David Coombs asked Judge Lind to balance rehabilitation and punishment before sentencing.
During trial, the U.S. Army private was portrayed as a traitor by the prosecution and as a well-intentioned but naive young man by the defense. He provided some 700,000 confidential military documents to WikiLeaks in what reportedly was the largest disclosure ever of classified American military information.
Manning was acquitted last month of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, but convicted of violating the Espionage Act.
Last updated at 12:19 p.m. to include Ellsberg’s comments.