PFC Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years for leaks

WTF Bradley Manning 7.30.13

Updated Aug. 22, 2013

FORT MEADE, Maryland — PFC Bradley Manning was sentenced today to 35 years in confinement for releasing more than 700,000 classified U.S. government records to WikiLeaks. 

Judge Denise Lind handed down a 35-year sentence, plus reduction in rank from Private First Class to Private E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and dishonorable discharge against the 25-year-old former Army intelligence analyst.

Read more: Prosecution seeks 60-year sentence against PFC Bradley Manning

Lind ruled that Manning will be credited a total of 1,294 days (roughly three-and-a-half years) towards his sentence; that number includes the 1,182 days of pre-trial confinement as well as the 112 days of Article 13 credit for Manning’s unlawful mistreatment while he was held in solitary confinement for nine months in Quantico. Lind did not impose the $100,000 fine sought by the prosecution.

Moments after Lind adjourned the court following the two-minute proceeding, about dozens of spectators – some in tears – shouted messages of support to Manning. Outside of the court house, Manning supporters held up peace signs and chanted “Arrest the war criminals”, “Free Bradley Manning”, and “Whistleblowing is not a crime” to the press.

Civilian defense attorney David Coombs criticized the severity of the sentence, saying that it was “designed to send a message” to deter future whistleblowers like Manning.

“When I heard the sentence of 35 years, I think to myself, ‘I’ve represented hundreds of clients…from people who’ve committed murder to people who’ve molested children, and those types of clients received less time than PFC Manning,” said Coombs. “This does send a message and it’s a chilling one and it’s endorsed at the highest level. This administration has gone after more whistleblowers than the previous ones combined.”

The records Manning leaked during his 2010 deployment in Iraq include the Apache “collateral murder” video, the “significant activities” (SIGACT) reports filed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables, and 700 Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs.

Manning was convicted of 20 out of the 22 counts, including six counts of the Espionage Act, and faced a maximum sentence of 90 years. He was acquitted of the most serious charge – aiding the enemy – which could have resulted in a life sentence.

Manning: Leaks were “made out of a concern for my country”

In a statement read by Coombs, Manning acknowledged that his actions broke the law but explained that his decision to leak the classified records “were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in.”

Read more: Statement by PFC Bradley Manning in presidential pardon request

Manning wrote:

“Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on a traditional battlefield. And due to this fact, we’ve had to alter our methods of combatting risks posed to us and our way of life. 

“I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. 

“It was at this time that I realized that our efforts to meet the risks posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity.

“We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceive were the enemy, we sometimes kill innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

“In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomach countless other acts in the name of our war on terror. 

“Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically-based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission…

“…I understand that my actions violated the law. I regret that my actions hurt anyone. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others…

“…I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.” 

“His fight is not over”

According to Coombs, Manning will be eligible for parole in 10 years under military rules. Factoring in the 1,294 credit, he said Manning can be up for parole review in seven years. Coombs added that if Manning is denied parole the first time around, his case will be automatically reviewed every year thereafter.

In the meantime, Coombs said he will pursue several avenues to reduce Manning’s sentence.

Coombs announced that he will file a request for presidential pardon early next week. Amnesty International USA, in partnership with the Bradley Manning Support Network, has created an online petition to the White House calling for the President to commute “Manning’s sentence to time served and to allow for his immediate release”. They will need to collect at least 100,000 signatures within 30 days to receive a response from the White House.

Coombs will also be submitting post-trial matters to the Convening Authority, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who has the power to reduce Manning’s sentence.

In addition, Coombs said because Manning has received a greater than 30-year sentence, under military rules, he will be eligible to have his case reviewed by a clemency board after serving three years. Coombs said the clemency board would often consider an inmate’s good behavior in determining whether or not he should be granted clemency.

“So that’s another option – another bite at the apple, if you will – at reducing his sentence,” said Coombs. “And if I think hard enough and turn over enough rocks, I think I’ll find some other ways of that as well.”

Coombs, however, emphasized that he will not represent Manning in his appeal, which will likely start in late 2014 or early 2015.

“If you are the appellate counsel, you’re looking at what the trial attorney did and you’re second-guessing every decision. And if there’s something that they did wrong, you’re raising that as ineffective assistance of counsel,” Coombs explained. “I couldn’t do that to myself obviously, and Brad deserves an attorney that will. So if I’ve made a mistake, if I’ve done something wrong, if I didn’t raise an issue that I should have, Brad shouldn’t be punished for that.”

Jeff Patterson, a former Marine and organizer with Courage to Resist who helped raise $1.4 million for Manning’s legal defense, said the Bradley Manning Support Network will continue to raise funds and financially support Coombs’s efforts to reduce Manning’s sentence.

“We will simply not give up. Bradley will not spend 35 years in prison,” said Patterson.

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