Bradley Manning Sentenced To 35 Years In Prison For Leaking Classified Military Documents
Bradley Manning has earned a sentencing of 35 years in prison for committing the largest leak of government documents in the history of United States.
Manning, 25, was convicted on 19 counts on July 30 that included six Espionage Act violations after having previously pled guilty to 10 lesser counts. His litany of charges carried a maximum sentence of 90 years behind bars. Though the prosecution suggested he serve 60, military judge Col. Denise Lind. gave him the lesser sentence of 35 years.
Had the prosecution successfully convicted Manning of “aiding the enemy,” Manning’s convictions would have carried a maximum sentence of life in prison. The prosecution had argued that Manning’s ostensible knowledge that once the leaked documents made their way online they could get into the hands of al Qaeda leaders made him guilty, which troubled freedom of the press advocates. Judge Lind's not guilty verdict could deter prosecutors from pursuing the angle in future cases, but the length of time she heard their arguments on the matter could be encouraging to others.
"The fact that Manning was ultimately found not guilty will likely influence the cost-benefit calculus of future prosecutors about whether it is worth their while to try again to stretch for such a draconian verdict," said Yochai Benkler, a Harvard professor who testified in Manning's defense, according to Hufffington Post "But the acquittal did not close off that legal avenue."
In total, Manning released an astounding estimate of 700,000 classified government documents to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks that included 250,000 state department diplomatic cables and 500,000 battlefield reports. He also turned over the inflammatory video of a U.S. apache helicopter attacking Baghdad in an assault that killed a number of innocent civilians and a pair of Reuters journalists.
Manning’s defense acknowledged that their client had likely acted out of some sense that he would be contributing to the public welfare. However, lawyer David Coombs alleged that there was more at work than a taste for heroics. Coombs shed light on Manning’s struggle with feeling as though he was a woman trapped in a man's body, and that he was wrestling with the idea of undergoing a surgical transition while still in the military. The defense also had Manning’s sister testify to share that they had grown up in a home with two alcoholic parents.
The 35-year sentence handed down to Manning could likely end up being much shorter. First of all, his 1293 days time served will be subtracted, as will another 112 days due to the oftentimes-harsh conditions he was subjected to in Quantico. Furthermore, his sentencing will be reviewed by Maj. Gen Jeffrey Buchanon, who has the authority to reduce the sentence and/ or thrown out some of the convictions. The sentence could also be lessened by the Army Courty of Appeal and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
As Manning returns to prison, NSA leaker Edward Snowden remains abroad out of U.S. custody after being granted asylum by Russia for at least the coming year. After learning of Manning’s treatment behind bars and the sentencing that would await him, it seems unlikely that Snowden would opt to turn himself in anytime soon. His father, Lon Snowden, for one, seems to prefer that his son stay put.
“[Manning] was subjected to inhumane conditions. He was stripped of his clothes, kept for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, his glasses were removed. That was unacceptable,” the elder Snowden told Rossiya 24. “I just don’t have a high level of trust in our justice system, not only because of what has happened to my son.”
– Chelsea Regan
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