Three years after leaking almost 700,000 documents containing secrets of the U.S. government, Army soldier Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Manning, who is just 25 years old, was the source behind the release of sensitive documents by the site, Wikileaks, in 2010. He faced up to 90 years in prison—the U.S. government asked the military judge preceding over the case to give Manning at least 60 years—yet, the judge gave him just over half of that (military judges don't have to explain their reasoning behind a sentence, so we won't find out why she gave him just 35 years). Manning has to serve at least one-third of that sentence until he is eligible for parole. Along with his sentence, he is getting his rank deducted to private, forfeiting pay, and is getting a dishonorable discharge with credit for 1,294 served in prison.
The government wanted to make an example of Manning during the trial, to stop any other soldiers who might be thinking of leaking documents. “There is value in deterrence, your honor; this court must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information,” said military prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow to the judge. “National security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously.”
Then, there were arguments that placed other crimes in contrast to Manning's. “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,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
Manning's documents that he sent to Wikileaks revealed abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and a video that showed an American Apache helicopter opening fire on a group of Iraqis in Baghdad (click here to see it), which included two journalists and children. The helicopter crew believed they were insurgents.
Manning was found not guilty of his most serious charge, Aiding the Enemy, which would have found him in prison for life. During the trial, Manning said he was “sorry that I hurt the United States.”
At the time of writing, the hashtag #BecauseOfBradleyManning is trending in the U.S. on Twitter.