“Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of the biggest breach of classified data in the nation’s history by providing files to WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday.
Judge Colonel Denise Lind, who last found Manning guilty of 20 charges including espionage and theft, could have sentenced him to as many as 90 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for 60 years.”
Normally I think any sentence over 25 years is excessive for anything short of rape or murder, especially since the federal justice system usually doesn’t allow for any type of parole. One of the few exceptions to this rule are military court maritals, which allow for convicts to be released after serving at least a third of their sentence. Given that Manning will be getting credit for time served, it is possible that he may spend a little more than a decade behind bars.
It is important to stress that Manning was by no means the ideal whistleblower. He was indiscriminate in choosing which documents to reveal and he choose to go to a foreign platform (Wikileaks, which is headed by Australian Julian Assange) to reveal them.. And while his intentions were admirable, this type of reckless behavior obviously cannot encouraged.
At the same time, this ruling may act as a chilling effect on other would-be whistleblowers who would not be as cavalier in their revelations. The worst case scenario is that the threat of prosecution will deter perfectly lawful leaks that bring accountability to the activities of our government. This should be an ongoing concern for this executive branch, which has prosecuted whistleblowers at an unprecedented rate over the past few years. We as a nation are better off when the actions of those in power are subject to scrutiny, whether it’s from inside the government or the public sphere. The President and his Justice Department should keep that in mind as the continue to levy charges against leakers.