Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday for leaking 700,000 secret government documents to Julian Assange’s then-relatively unknown WikiLeaks, making him the latest victim of the Obama administration’s campaign against media leaks.
I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.
Manning’s sentence—announced at a time when the government is breaking records in going after like-minded dissenters—is the longest in history for providing privileged information to the media. He is now considered one of the most famous whistleblowers in American history.
Military judge and Army Col. Denise R. Lind also announced that the 25-year-old will be stripped of pay and benefits, and dishonorably discharged.
It could have been worse.
Manning faced a maximum sentence of 90 years, and the prosecution in Manning’s case was seeking a minimum of 60 years, which could have locked up the baby-faced soldier of conscience until age 85.
“I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society,” Manning said in a statement read by his lawyer David Coombs after the sentencing.
According to The New York Times, Manning will be eligible for parole in eight years.
“Under the current administration, unauthorized leaks to the media are viewed as being tantamount to aiding the enemy,” Coombs said. “The case of United States v. Manning is a watershed moment in history for freedom of the press. We need to decide what freedoms and individual rights we need to give up in the name of national security.”
First Amendment advocates similarly took little solace in the reduced, but extremely severe, sentence.
“The only just outcome in Mr. Manning’s case is his unconditional release, compensation for the unlawful treatment he has undergone, and a serious commitment to investigating the wrongdoing his alleged disclosures have brought to light,” WikiLeaks founder Assange said in a statement on Wednesday.
Manning’s sentence, and the hot government pursuit of National Security Agency’s wiretapping whistleblower Edward Snowden, should come as no surprise to those who have followed the Obama administration’s response to unplanned leaks.
The Obama administration has brought serious charges against seven government whistelblowers under the World War I-era Espionage Act of 1917: Manning, Snowden, John Kiriakou, Jeffrey Sterling, Stephen Kim, Shamai Leibowitz and Thomas Drake. That’s four more than all other presidential administrations combined.
Freedom of the Press Foundation cofounder Reiney Reitman expressed outrage in a blog post, calling Manning’s sentence harsh, unnecessary and a “dangerous message” to would-be leakers.
“The public needs whistleblowers. Often at enormous personal sacrifice, whistleblowers serve as the ultimate check on otherwise unaccountable government secrecy. And Manning’s work in particular has shown that a single person can, when faced with knowledge of criminal acts, speak the truth and change the world.”
Not all of these whistleblowers received sentences on the magnitude of Manning’s. Drake, for instance, was a former high-ranking NSA analyst who spoke out to a reporter about bungling and waste in the agency. He was indicted on espionage charges, but only wound up being sentenced to a year of probation.
That said, he was fired for speaking out, and now works at an Apple Store, as the government charges against him have soured nearly all other job prospects.
“You have people who are deeply profiting from the secrets of the national security state,” director Robert Greenwald, who featured Drake in his film War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State recently explained to CNN. “That’s a very strong constituency that knows which side its bread is buttered on and its bread is buttered on secrecy and more secrecy that requires silencing the press and silencing the whistleblowers.”
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Original article from TakePart