Bradley Manning's Sentence Doesn't Mean His Story Is Going Away

Patrick Semansky/AP

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked a massive trove of classified documents to WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday morning. Manning was convicted on July 30 of most of the charges levied against him, including offenses under the Espionage Act. He did, however, manage to escape the most serious charge of "aiding the enemy." Manning's rank was also reduced, and he was dishonorably discharged from the Army.

The government had asked Judge Denise Lind for a 60-year sentence for Manning, out of a maximum of 90 years. Manning's attorney, David Coombs, asked for leniency to allow Manning "to have a life," emphasizing Manning's personal struggles and his humanity. "His biggest crime was, he cared about the loss of life he was seeing and was struggling with," Coombs said during closing arguments this week.

The 35-year sentence, while not the most lenient, is still obviously much lighter than the government was looking for. The sentence also includes 1,294 days already served. If he serves a full sentence, Manning, who is 25, will be released when he is 56. With good conduct, he could be released much earlier, because he is eligible for parole after serving at least one-third of his sentence.

Manning's sentence doesn't quite end this story. He still has a large support base, from WikiLeaks' Julian Assange and Noam Chomsky to groups of activists. In response to the sentencing, Amnesty International issued a statement calling on President Obama to commute Manning's sentence to time served "to allow his immediate release." The Center for Constitutional Rights called for a full pardon. The American Civil Liberties Union called Wednesday "a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate." And as many others noted on Twitter, it's not as if 35 years in prison is a victory for his supporters.

And even though the Manning case is unique, there's already some precedent for decades-long debate over sentence reductions or pardons for high-profile inmates. The much shorter sentence than the government was looking for might be a bit of an immediate headache. But the years of attention and debate to come will likely make sure the story doesn't end anytime soon.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.