Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years

The soldier was convicted of espionage and other crimes last month, having earlier admitted giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of reports from the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and confidential diplomatic cables.



Bradley Manning could be freed on parole within a decade and his lawyers have indicated they’ll ask President Barack Obama to pardon him or commute his sentence.


Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving more than 700,000 classified files, battlefield videos and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks in 2010.


At the time he was working as a low-level intelligence analyst in Baghdad, Iraq.


He will be dishonourably discharged from the Army but is to receive a credit of just over three-and-a-half years (1,293 days) for the time he has already served awaiting trial and sentencing.


In January, Judge Denise Lind shaved another 112 days off Bradley Manning’s potential sentence because of what she described as the “more rigorous than necessary” treatment he faced in solitary confinement.


He’ll be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence.


At the trial at Fort Meade, Maryland, Bradley Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, read a statement written by his client.


“I understand that my actions violated the law. I regret that my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all (and he puts in here) all women and men are created equal.”


Human Rights Watch has questioned the severity of the sentence, saying it contrasts with the total impunity of former senior US officials for torture and related abuses.


In a statement, the organisation says it also far exceeds the sentences most democratic countries impose for public leaks of sensitive information.


After the sentencing, lawyer David Coombs called on US President Barack Obama to end what he called Bradley Manning’s suffering and pardon him.


“Make no mistake about it, the cancer of over-classification is threatening the very fabric of our free society. Over-classification hinders debate. It hinders what we know about our government. It hinders finding solutions to common problems and that is, how do we keep our way of life in a post-9/11 world?”


The classified material that shocked many around the world included a 2007 gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Baghdad.


But Manning’s leak raised strong passions on the part of the US government, which said his action had put American lives at risk.


During his trial, the prosecution said Bradley Manning set out to harm the country he had pledged to serve.


But Manning has plenty of supporters among anti-secrecy advocates, who maintain he was justified in releasing the information.


Members of the Manning Support Network have gathered outside the White House to call on President Barack Obama to pardon Manning.


A spokesman, Nathan Fuller, has described Manning’s sentence as massive, and says it’s outrageous that a whistleblower should go to prison at all, let alone for 35 years.


Mr Fuller has told the ABC Manning’s leak was substantially smaller than it could have been, given his security clearance, and that should have been taken into account at his trial.


“He understood what it would give the American people, and that was a clear sense of how we operate our wars in secret, what the American military and diplomats do with our tax dollars and in our name. And he saw that a lot of those were what he called the non-PR (public relations) versions of the world, and that included a lot of abuses, ignoring tortures and even some war crimes.”


The leaking of classified documents catapaulted WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, into the international spotlight.


Julian Assange has described Bradley Manning’s sentencing as a “significant strategic victory”.

But Mr Assange has renewed calls for Manning’s release, describing his conviction as an affront to basic concepts of Western justice.


Mr Assange has told the ABC Manning could apply for parole and be freed within a decade.


“The US government applied a capital offence to Bradley Manning that could have seen him executed. In addition it demanded at the beginning of this trial that he be sentenced for an additional 135 years, so to knock that down to a sentence that in all probability will be under 10 years served from now, that is a remarkable tactical victory. But it should never have happened and I hope that an appeal process is successful.”


Julian Assange says the Obama administration is demonstrating that there is no place in its system for people of conscience and principle, and that can only lead to more whistleblowers.


And indeed, US officials are still seeking the return of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed details of secret US monitoring programs.


Snowden has been given temporary asylum in Russia.



Kerri Worthington reports.


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