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Manning sentenced in WikiLeaks case

By David Dishneau & Pauline Jelinek

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:44 a.m. HST, Aug 21, 2013

FORT MEADE, Md. » Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced today to 35 years in prison for giving hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks in one of the nation's biggest leak cases since the Pentagon Papers more than a generation ago.

Flanked by his lawyers, Manning, 25, stood at attention and appeared not to react when military judge Col. Denise Lind announced the punishment during a brief hearing. Among the spectators, there was a gasp, and one woman put her hands up, covering her face.

"I'm shocked. I did not think she would do that," said Manning supporter Jim Holland, of San Diego. "Thirty-five years, my Lord."

The former intelligence analyst was found guilty last month of 20 crimes, including six violations of the Espionage Act, as part of the Obama administration's unprecedented crackdown on media leaks.

But the judge acquitted him of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, an offense that could have meant life in prison without parole.

Manning could have gotten 90 years behind bars. Prosecutors asked for at least 60 years as a warning to other soldiers, while Manning's lawyer suggested he get no more than 25, because some of the documents he leaked will be declassified by then.

Manning will get credit for the more than three years he has been held, but he'll have to serve at least one-third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

The native of Crescent, Okla., digitally copied and released more than 700,000 documents, including Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables, while working in 2010 in Iraq.

He also leaked video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that mistakenly killed at least nine people, including a Reuters photographer.

A potentially more explosive leak case unfolded as Manning's court-martial was underway, when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was charged with espionage for exposing the NSA's Internet and telephone surveillance programs.

At his trial, Manning said he gave the material to the secrets-spilling website WikiLeaks to expose the U.S. military's "bloodlust" and generate debate over the wars and U.S. policy.

During the sentencing phase, he apologized for the damage he caused, saying, "When I made these decisions, I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people."

His lawyers also argued that Manning suffered extreme inner turmoil over his gender identity — his feeling that he was a woman trapped in a man's body — while serving in the macho military, which at the time barred gays from serving openly. Among the evidence was a photo of him in a blond wig and lipstick.

Defense attorney David Coombs told the judge that Manning had been full of youthful idealism.

"He had pure intentions at the time that he committed his offenses," Coombs said. "At that time, Pfc.Manning really, truly, genuinely believed that this information could make a difference."

Prosecutors did not present any evidence in open court that anyone was physically harmed as a direct result of Manning's actions. But they showed that al-Qaida used material from the helicopter attack in a propaganda video and that Osama bin Laden presumably read some of the leaked documents, which were published online by WikiLeaks. Some of the material was found in bin Laden's compound when it was raided.

Also, government witnesses testified the leaks endangered U.S. intelligence sources, some of whom were moved to other countries for their safety. And several ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of embarrassing disclosures.

Prosecutors called Manning an anarchist and an attention-seeking traitor, while supporters have hailed him as a whistleblower and likened him to Daniel Ellsberg, the defense analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, to The New York Times and other newspapers.

That case touched off an epic clash between the Nixon administration and the press and led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the First Amendment.

The Obama administration has charged seven people with leaking to the news media, while only three people were prosecuted in all previous administrations combined.

Among those seven is Snowden, whose leak has triggered a fierce debate over security vs. privacy and strained U.S. relations with Russia, which is harboring him despite demands he be returned to this country to face charges.

In addition, the Justice Department has obtained the records of phones used by Associated Press journalists and emails of a Fox News reporter.

Also, a federal appeals court ruled recently that New York Times reporter James Risen cannot shield his source when he testifies at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking information about a secret operation.

A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Michael Ratner, has suggested Manning's conviction could make it easier for federal prosecutors to get an indictment against Assange as a co-conspirator.

But other legal experts said the Australian's status as a foreigner and a publisher make it unlikely he will be indicted.

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serious wrote:
Remember when BP had its Gulf oil spill and Obama criticized the CEO for lack of leadership?? Now, who's the Commander in Chief? A ONE STRIPER gets the blame. Where is the chain of command? It's like blaming the coal stoker for the Titanic sinking.
on August 21,2013 | 04:33AM
pcman wrote:
IRT serious on blame. Every individual in the military and DOD takes an oath to protect classified information. If a person does not want to do that, he should say so and get out of the job. There are many jobs in the military and DOD that do not handle classified information. Security protection is hammered in every day. Commanders and supervisors have to depend on every person on his honor and integrity to do his job. The chain of command provides security training and punishment. The person who breaks the oath of protecting classified material has to bite the bullet himself. If Manning expected someone else to take the blame for him he was wrong. So is 'serious,' who evidently never served in the military where honesty and integrity are the most important thing for the success of the defense of the nation, Constitution and one's comrades in arms.
on August 21,2013 | 10:25AM
bsdetection wrote:
The war crimes, atrocities and cover-ups that Manning exposed did not happen in a military "where honesty and integrity are the most important thing." There is no "honor and integrity" in committing those acts, in maintaining a silence about them, or in lying to conceal them. You seem to be suggesting that the logic of the Nuremberg Defense should have been followed by Manning—when you find yourself complicit in war crimes, you have no moral obligation to do the right thing because you're just following orders. Manning had a moral compass that was stronger than his concern for his well-being. It is morally bankrupt to defend a military and a government where war criminals go free or get a slap on the wrist (Abu Graib commanders demoted only one grade or fined $8,000) and where those who gave the orders for torture (Bush, Rumsfeld) or tried to provide legal justification torture (John Yoo) get away with claiming that they are defending the nation and the Constitution.
on August 21,2013 | 11:51AM
RichardCory wrote:
"He also leaked video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that mistakenly killed at least nine people, including a Reuters photographer." And it should be said that the military tried to cover up the truth of what happened during that incident that killed innocent people. Manning exposed lying and corruption. He may have technically broken the law, but he still did the right thing.
on August 21,2013 | 06:06AM
serious wrote:
Agreed, look how Biden, after a top secret meeting, leaked the Seal outfit's name and they were hunted down and killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan!!! It's the little fish that get squished!!!
on August 21,2013 | 07:07AM
scooters wrote:
So should have Biden been put on trial? Yes in deed!
on August 21,2013 | 07:35AM
allie wrote:
I am divided on this man. I do think he meant well but he is not really smart enough or mature enough to take on this kind of work. As he said, he was duped and did hurt many Americans
on August 21,2013 | 08:11AM
pcman wrote:
IRT allie on mean well. You don't mean well if you take an oath and promise to protect classified material, then break the oath for personal reasons. You don't mean well if you take matters in your own hands knowing full well that other Americans depend on your doing your job to protect their well being and lives. If Manning did not know all of this, he must have been stupid.
on August 21,2013 | 10:32AM
ehrhornp wrote:
I wonder when it will become official at the United States is now Oceania. How sad.
on August 21,2013 | 06:14AM
scooters wrote:
He'll never serve to whole sentence. The military has a history of letting criminals get out early.
on August 21,2013 | 07:34AM
pcman wrote:
IRT scooters on sentence. I served 20 years on active duty and 25 years a DOD civilian employee and never heard of prisoners being let out early. Manning got off easy for the amount of damage he has already done, and much of is yet to come from Assange through WikiLeaks. The judge should have said Manning's sentence can be reduced if nothing is further published by WikiLeaks over the next 50 years, or his sentence could be increased if more is published by WikiLeaks. That would reveal how honorable Assange really is.
on August 21,2013 | 10:43AM
cojef wrote:
When everything is said and done, what is the lesson learned from this debacle? The whistle-blowers, if you could be kind enough to call them that, are very young and impressionable individuals. Manning and Snowden are young and impressionable with little experience in life, yet they were entrusted with highly classified materials of the likes, "only for your eyes" ratings. The operational procedures for handling classified matterials, must be reassessed and revised, especially as to background security checks. Methinks, that background checks are not as stringent as it was before. After I was drafted in 1944, little did I know that my background was investigated by the FBI, as I later learned by those that were interviewed. The investigation was conducted just to clear me for further training as a language intelligence trainee. Also, after agreeing to be recruited to the Federal Service, the FBI again checked my background. My top clearance was only "secret", a very low rating.
on August 21,2013 | 07:40AM
allie wrote:
interesting points.
on August 21,2013 | 08:10AM
pcman wrote:
IRT cojef on clearance. Today classified information is readily available on the 'classified internet.' In cojef's time, you only get to see hard copy documents. Today over a million military, DOD and OGA personnel have top secret clearances. Almost every military and DOD personnel have SECRET clearances to do their jobs.
on August 21,2013 | 10:49AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Given the volume of information this guy leaked, his primary motivation was indiscriminate damage to the US government. While he may seem like a whistleblower to some, he really is nothing more than a malignant, traitorous malcontent who deserves to sit in a cell for 35 years.
on August 21,2013 | 08:39AM
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