The U.S. government's relentless prosecution of Bradley Manning came to a close yesterday when Judge Colonel Denise Lind sentenced the former Army intelligence analyst to 35 years in prison.
While Manning, 25, was acquitted last month of 'aiding the enemy' – the prosecution's most serious charge – he was ultimately convicted of a multitude of other counts for having disseminated classified military documents and State Department cables.
The lengthy sentence will likely appease national security advocates and officials hoping to deter the likes of not only Manning but also Edward Snowden. The Washington Post has already speculated that the U.S. government, on the heels of Manning's conviction, might be incentivized to bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, without whom Manning's leaked documents would likely have never been published.
Opinion pieces have begun circulating amongst online news publications; Manning supporters continue to argue that Manning's actions did not constitute betrayal of his country but rather exhibited his desire to expose the daily realities – and brutal consequences – of the American war effort. Civil liberties groups further contend that the wrongdoings Manning exposed have not been dealt with as harshly as he has. Director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, Ben Wizner, for example, attacked the U.S. justice system for punishing "a soldier who shared information with the press and public" more harshly than those "who tortured prisoners and killed civilians." Wizner designated August 21, 2013 as not only "a sad day for Bradley Manning" but also "a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for fully informed public debate."
On the other hand, director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, Steven Bucci, offered a much less abstract take on the sentence by stating, "When you sign a security clearance and swear oaths, you actually have to abide by that. It is not optional."
Manning's defense attorney, David Coombs, reported that Manning comforted his defense team in the wake of the sentence by assuring them, "It's okay. Don't worry about it. I know you did your best. It's going to be okay. I am going to get through this." Coombs further shared an official statement from Manning that explained Manning leaked the classified material having "started to question the morality" of U.S. policy. While Coombs does plan to seek a presidential pardon, Manning's statement asserted that, even if denied the pardon, he will serve his sentence "knowing sometimes you pay a heavy price to live in a free country."
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