WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison today for his role in leaking more than 700,000 documents to the site, a far cry from the 90-year sentence he could have received.
Army Col. Denise Lind, the military judge who issued the sentence this morning, also said that Manning was dishonorably discharged. Prosecutors were pushing for Manning to receive 60 years in prison, with the hopes that such a move would discourage future leaks.
In July, Manning, 25, was found not guilty for the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, though he was found guilty of almost 20 other charges, including violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and violations of the Espionage Act. Last year, Manning said in court that he released the videos “to show the true cost of war.”
While many of the documents leaked were innocuous diplomatic cables, some revealed disturbing acts by U.S. soldiers, including a 2007 video (titled “Collateral Murder”) that showed civilians and two journalists being killed in a helicopter attack, and information detailing higher counts of civilian deaths in Iraq than the U.S. government previously admitted. Adrian Lamo, a former computer hacker, outed Manning to military authorities after he was told about the leaks.
David Coombs, Manning’s defense lawyer, argued for leniency in the case due to psychological issues Manning experienced while in combat, including a struggle with his gender identity. He also pointed out that the government ignored issues with Manning’s mental health, arguing that if he had been properly treated, he might not have leaked any files.
Manning’s sentencing could give us a glimpse into how the government may treat Edward Snowden, the former analyst with U.S. defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton who leaked details about widespread NSA surveillance on the web, if he ever returns to the U.S. Indeed, Snowden likely saw the need to leave the country and go into hiding after seeing how the government reacted to Manning’s leaks.