'Travesty of justice': Whistleblower Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Army whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday for releasing a trove of government and military documents to WikiLeaks.

Judge Denise Lind, an Army colonel, delivered the sentence that, while much shorter than the 60 years sought by prosecutors, is unprecedented for a media leak, the Brennan Center for Justice stated.

He will also be dishonorably discharged, have his rank reduced and will forfeit pay.  He is eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence.

The 25-year-old has already spent over 1200 days in confinement, which will be taken off his sentence. That time includes 112 days taken off for the torture he endured under months of solitary confinement.

Last month, Manning was convicted of 20 charges, seen by many as a sign of the administration's war on whistleblowers and a 'dangerous precedent' for WikiLeaks' Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

At the end of February, in pre-trial hearings, Manning explained his motivation for the leaks, saying, "I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan. It might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day."

Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and now attorney for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, was among the few individuals in the room at the military court facility in Fort Meade, Maryland, as Manning made that declaration.  Ratner wrote at the time:

Over the course of nearly two hours, Private Manning detailed with startling clarity his precise motivations for each leak.  On the Iraq War Logs and Afghan War Logs, he expressed his shock and dismay at the rampant use of targeted killings as a conflict-resolution tactic.  On the Reykjavik 13 cable: the world should know of the U.S. and U.K.’s bullying tactics against Iceland to accept austerity measures in the wake of the global financial meltdown.  On the Iraqi police’s arrests and disappearances of anti-corruption leafleters: that U.S. should not support those stifling democratic processes in Iraq.  On the Guantanamo detainee files: the Obama administration’s stance is two-faced, claiming on the one hand to want to close the prison, yet on the other, knowingly holding innocent and low-level prisoners.  On the State Department cable leak: the so-called “leader of the free world” engaged in "seemingly criminal activity" via backdoor deals is wrong and hypocritical. And on the most famous of his leaks, the "Collateral Murdervideo: the soldiers’ "bloodlust" as they wantonly shot Reuters journalists whom they had mistaken for insurgents from an apache helicopter, along with the ensuing cover-up must be open to public review.

Upon Wednesday's sentencing, an "outraged" CCR said that convicting Manning under the "archaic" Espionage Act sends "an unmistakable warning to potential whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish their information."

"Something is seriously wrong with our justice system," added Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union'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."

Echoing this, the CCR continued: 

It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes he exposed are not even investigated.  Every aspect of this case sets a dangerous precedent for future prosecutions of whistleblowers – who play an essential role in democratic government by telling us the truth about government wrongdoing – and we fear for the future of our country in the wake of this case.

Andrea Germanos is a staff writer at Common Dreams, where this article first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission. 

Photo: Steve Rhodes / flickr

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.