Bradley Manning has been sentenced to serve 35 years in prison for turning over hundreds of thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks.
Handed down by Colonel Denise Lind on Wednesday, the sentence follows the court's verdict on July 30 that found Manning guilty of nearly all charges against him, though not guilty of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. Judge Lind had presided over an eight-week court martial in Fort Meade, Md.
Manning's rank will also be reduced from private first class to private, the U.S. Army Military District of Washington said in a press release. He will forfeit all of his pay and allowances and be dishonorably discharged from the military.
Manning could have faced as much as 90 years in jail, though prosecutors had urged a minimum sentence of 60 years. In his closing argument Monday, Capt. Joe Morrow said that a lengthy sentence would deter other soldiers from following Manning's path, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
The defense team had asked for a sentence of no more than 25 years, giving the 25-year-old the opportunity to rebuild his life upon release.
Manning must serve at least one-third of his sentence before he's eligible for parole, the Guardian added. Counted toward that time will be the 1,182 days he served in confinement before the trial and the 112 days of "unlawful punishment" he received in a military brig in Quantico, Va.
David Coombs, Manning's lead attorney, will discuss the sentence at a press conference to take place around 10:30 a.m. PT at the Hotel at Arundel Preserve in Hanover, Md.
Manning had pled guilty to 10 charges and was found guilty of 20 of them, including wrongful possession and transmission of national defense information, theft of government information, unauthorized access to a government computer, wrongful possession and transmission of protected government information, violation of lawful regulations related to his computer use and storage of classified information, and wrongful publication of U.S. intelligence information.
Supporters of Manning quickly weighed in following the sentence.
The Bradley Manning Support Network, which has paid all of Manning's legal fees, plans to hold a press conference near Fort Meade around 10:30 a.m. PT on both its bradleymanning.org Web site and a specific location to be announced. The group will also hold a rally in front of the White House at 4:30 p.m. PT.
Amnesty International is urging President Obama to commute the sentence to time already served.
"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 U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan," Widney Brown, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty International, said in a statement. "His revelations included reports on battlefield detentions and previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in U.S. helicopter attacks, information which should always have been subject to public scrutiny."
The American Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project:
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. 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.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called the minimum-term sentence a "significant tactical victory for Bradley Manning's defense, campaign team, and supporters." But he condemned the trial and conviction as an "affront to basic concepts of Western justice."
In the statement posted on the WikiLeaks Web site, Assange also offered his perspective on the current political climate and the rise of whistleblowers like Manning:
Mr Manning's treatment has been intended to send a signal to people of conscience in the US government who might seek to bring wrongdoing to light. This strategy has spectacularly backfired, as recent months have proven. Instead, the Obama administration is demonstrating that there is no place in its system for people of conscience and principle. As a result, there will be a thousand more Bradley Mannings.
The fight is also far from over, at least according to the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Manning supporters and defense attorney Coombs will ask Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, Military of the District of Washington commander and Convening Authority of Manning's court martial, to reduce the sentence, the group said. Along with Amnesty International, the support network also has launched a petition asking President Obama to pardon Manning.
As part of the post-trial phase of the court martial, the government will compile a record of the trial to review the findings and sentence, the U.S. Army Military District of Washington said. Manning himself has the right to petition for clemency during this phase.