Summary by The Guardian, August 21, 2013
A quick summary of where things stand:
• A court-martial sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for leaking government secrets. Manning is to be dishonorably discharged. He loses all pay. He is convicted of six Espionage Act violations. The sentence is expected to be appealed.
• Manning, 25, is eligible for parole. He must first serve at least a third of his sentence. He has more than three years’ time served and has been credited 112 days for his “inhuman” treatment in a Quantico brig in 2010-11. In a best-case scenario for Manning, he might be released before he turned 35.
• Judge Denise Lind announced the sentence in a hearing that lasted about two minutes. Manning had no visible reaction to the verdict. There were gasps from the crowd. As Manning was led out, supporters shouted “we’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley,” and “you’re our hero.”
• The ACLU, Amnesty International and other rights advocates and Manning supporters decried the verdict. It is unjust for Manning to spend decades in prison when the perpetrators of the wartime atrocities he exposed go free, Manning supporters argue.
It’s “seriously wrong” for a soldier who shared information with the public to be punished “far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians,” the ACLU says in a statement on the Manning sentence:
A legal system that doesn’t distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. 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.
Amnesty International called on President Obama to commute the sentence. “Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pre-trial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial,” AI’s Widney Brown said. “The president doesn’t need to wait for this sentence to be appealed to commute it; he can and should do so right now.”