WikiLeaks case: Bradley Manning gets 35 years for leaking classified files (+video)
The 35-year sentence given Pfc. Bradley Manning – he could be out in 10 years – for the largest leak of classified information in US history reflects the complexity of the case, including harm to national security and how the Army dealt with his problems.
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Civil libertarians, freedom of information advocates, and opponents of US military policy were quick to respond.Skip to next paragraph
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"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, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, said in a statement. “This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate."
The whistleblower organization Government Accountability Project termed Manning’s sentence “excessive and unjust.”
Manning’s supporters, who see him as a hero, have begun an online petition to have him pardoned.y
Amnesty International immediately called on President Obama to commute Manning's sentence.
“Bradley Manning acted on the belief that he could spark a meaningful public debate on the costs of war, and specifically on the conduct of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan," Widney Brown, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty International, said in a statement. "The US government should turn its attention to investigating and delivering justice for the serious human rights abuses committed by its officials in the name of countering terror.”
Pardon or commutation are highly unlikely – especially from an administration that has controversially made a point of cracking down on leakers.
“The military is serious about sending a deterrent message to those under their command tempted to leaking documents to journalists,” Michael Rustad, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, told Monitor staff writer Mark Clayton. “There is a message of general deterrence to others in the military who are tempted to leak data to journalists for whatever reason.”
“The future of ‘principled leaking’ of military documents is much in doubt,” Professor Rustad said.
Under military law, Manning’s verdict and sentence must be reviewed – and may be reduced – by the commander of the Military District of Washington, currently Maj. Gen. Jeffery S. Buchanan. Besides the court-martial record, Manning's defense team can submit other pieces of information in a bid for leniency.
If Buchanan approves a sentence that includes a bad-conduct discharge, a dishonorable discharge or confinement for a year or more, the case will be automatically reviewed by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
Further appeals can be made to the military's highest court, the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the US Supreme Court.
During the sentencing phase of his military trial at Ft. Meade, Md., Manning apologized for his actions, one of the rare times he spoke at his court martial.
"I'm sorry that my actions hurt people,” he told the court. “I'm sorry that it hurt the United States.”
"I should have worked more aggressively within the system,” Manning said. “Unfortunately, I can't go back and change things. I understand I must pay a price for my decisions.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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