Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison this morning, described as the stiffest sentence ever handed out in the U.S. for leaking information to the media. Mr. Manning is also reduced to the rank of private, dishonorably discharged, and forfeits all pay and benefits. The sentence was decreased by 1,182 days for pre-trial confinement and 112 days for inhumane treatment after his 2010 arrest. Attorney David Coombs said that Bradley Manning could be released in seven years for good behavior and time already served, and said that his client will seek a presidential pardon or commuting of the sentence to time already served.
Military judge Col. Denise Lind reportedly announced the sentence without explanation in a proceeding that lasted only a few minutes. In a packed courtroom, spectators gasped and cried out, "We'll keep fighting for you, Bradley," and "You're our hero!"
Outside the courtroom, Attorney Coombs called on the president to protect whistle blowers instead of punishing them and told reporters, "While we were successful in avoiding the aiding the enemy offense, the fact that the government pursued this offense, the fact that the government let this offense go forward, even after it was clear that there was no evidence of any intent to do so - should sound an alarm to every journalist - it should sound an alarm to every concerned citizen."
Spokespersons with the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Federation of American Scientists, Whistleblower Advocates, and many other activists and groups condemned the sentence. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, still holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London himself, released a statement calling Manning's trial and conviction "an affront to the basic concepts of Western justice," though a "significant tactical victory" because Manning could be paroled much earlier.
RT spoke to civil rights activist, author, and professor Dr. Cornell West who said that it is "a sad day in the country when a fellow citizen, my dear brother Bradley Manning, reveals lies and crimes of the U.S. government, and he's the one who's criminalized .. And for me, one day's too much."
Mr. Manning's attorney, David Coombs, reportedly began to weep after the sentencing as Mr. Manning turned to him and said, "Don't worry about it. It's all right. I know you did your best. ... I'm going to be OK. I'm going to get through this."
Video coverage below, followed by a discussion of the sentencing, and the brief excerpt with Dr. West.
Photo credits/top, via Christian Science Monitor, photographer: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Bradley Manning supporters in a night vigil outside the White House in late July 2013. Middle, via the guardian, "Bradley Manning case stretches credibility of U.S. computer fraud law," Manning supporters outside the main gates of Fort Meade in July 2013 where the soldier was found guilty of espionage.
Editor's Update, 8.22.2013 - In a statement read by Manning's attorney David Coombs on the Thursday morning Today Show, Bradley Manning thanked supporters and announced that he wished to live the rest of his life as a woman:
Subject: The Next Stage of My Life
I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.
Chelsea E. Manning
Due to this announcement, in any subsequent coverage of the Manning case, with the exception of quotes or references by third parties, Sauk River Review plans to refer to Mr. Bradley E. Manning as Ms. Chelsea E. Manning, out of respect for her wishes.
More here at Today.