Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified US government information to WikiLeaks.
According to the Wall Street Journal, presiding judge, Denise Lind, delivered a sentence that means the former intelligence analyst will likely spend at least eight more years behind bars before he could be freed.
Manning downloaded some 700,000 classified military and diplomatic documents that he sent to WikiLeaks and admitted doing it.
However, his attorneys and anti secrecy advocates have said that it would have a chilling effect on whistleblowers looking to expose government wrongdoing.
Manning’s sentence was the longest meted out in recent history for a would-be whistleblower, but it was also one of the biggest leaks ever.
With Manning’s help, WikiLeaks released 250,000 diplomatic cables, nearly 400,000 military reports and an infamous video of a 2007 US airstrike in Baghdad that killed two Reuters employees.
There are some who think the punishment is too light, particularly as some of the more right wing types believed he should have been executed for treason.
Republican Buck McKeon, who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the sentence was “light” given the vast damage Manning did to US national security.
McKeon felt there was a need to send a strong signal to others who may be tempted to disclose classified information. Apparently 35 years in jail is not enough to deter anyone from handing over documents.
But McKeon’s argument depends on the fact that Manning, 25, was found guilding of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. He wasn’t.
As it was, the most the prosecution wanted was 60 years, and the defence no more than 25.
After he has served his sentence he will be dishonourably discharged, and will forfeit all pay and benefits.
Manning is expected to be transferred quickly to Fort Leavenworth to serve his sentence. The case will be immediately appealed, and he could be granted clemency by the Army parole board.
David Coombs, Manning’s lead attorney, and others, said they would launch a new campaign urging President Barack Obama to pardon Manning although at the moment it is unlikely to see him do that. Obama only lets corporate stars like Apple off the hook.
Manning is also an example of Obama’s crackdown on leaks. His administration has used the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute more than twice as many people for mishandling secret government information as all other administrations combined.
Central Intelligence Agency officer John Kiriakou is serving a 30 month sentence after being convicted of sharing classified information with a reporter about the agency’s controversial waterboarding interrogation technique.