Army private Bradley Manning was sentenced by a military judge to 35 years in Fort Leavenworth for leaking military documents to Wikileaks, according to an article in the London Telegraph today, Thursday, Aug. 22. The word "leak" has taken on a whole new meaning since the days when it usually referred to nothing more serious than the condition of a water faucet.
The seriousness of leaking U.S. military documents was reflected in the sentence which will require Manning, 25, to serve several decades at Leavenworth. However, he could be available for parole in seven years because of the 1,294 days he's already served in jail awaiting trial. He faced a maximum of 90 years. His defense attorneys asked for leniency and only 25 years in closing arguments.
Those same attorneys say they will request President Barack Obama pardon their client. The odds of that are probably slim and none.
Manning, who was portrayed as a whistleblower by the defense and a traitor by the prosecution, was found not guilty of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy which would have resulted in a life sentence. However, he was found guilty of 20 out of 22 charges including espionage, theft and fraud.
In some ways this case appears to parallel that of leaker Edward Snowden who is currently taking in the sights of Moscow and other Russian tourist attractions since being given a one-year asylum by Vladimir Putin, the former KGB head, and current premier. Snowden may be sitting an apartment somewhere in the workers' "paradise" contemplating what the Manning sentence means to him.
While Snowden was not technically in the military as Manning was when he leaked his documents, he did take his leaked documents directly to Communist China before then continuing his vacation in Russia, yet another government unfriendly to the United States. Snowden was an independent contractor at the time he leaked his documents. Like Manning, he has also been labeled everything from a whistleblower to a traitor.
Manning was first detained in Iraq after he leaked a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack killing Iraqi civilians. Defense attorneys portrayed him as a "naive soldier who wanted to changed the world in Iraq."
He reportedly leaked hundreds of thousands of military documents as part of this largest leak in U.S. military history.
The public's opinion has been sharply divided as to Manning as well as Snowden. Many Americans say this is treason and should be punished accordingly with a harsh penalty. Others say Manning and Snowden have done the country as a whole a favor by revealing activities of the federal government which had been kept from average citizens.
Manning and Snowden are both probably benefitting from a distrust of the federal government born of Vietnam and later nourished by the Watergate coverup and ultimately by the refusal to unseal documents pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years later. Many wonder why the CIA is resisting all efforts to unseal those documents located in Maryland.
Snowden is probably hurt by the fact that he not only leaked his documents, but he turned them over to countries which have long been viewed as enemies of the U.S.
Now if Snowden or Manning had leaked the hidden secrets of those Kennedy assassination papers to the public, they would have even more support.
As it is, while the 35-year sentence meted out to Manning was less than what many anticipated, he will have a long time to contemplate the wisdom of his actions in a steel cage at Fort Leavenworth.
Traitors or whistleblowers? While the public seems split evenly, a military judge has made his judgment clear today.
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