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Bradley Manning Sentenced To 35 Years For Leaks


This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Army Private Bradley Manning was sentenced this morning to 35 years in a military prison. The intelligence analyst shared hundreds of thousands of documents with the website WikiLeaks in what prosecutors call the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. The 25-year-old Manning stood at attention as his sentence was handed down in a courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Joining us to talk about the case is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Put Bradley Manning's sentence in perspective for us. Prosecutors had asked for a lot more time. Of course, his supporters would want - would have wanted less.

JOHNSON: Yes. Renee, Bradley Manning faced a maximum of about 90 years on a score of criminal charges, including computer fraud, unauthorized sharing of classified information and stealing U.S. government property. Just about the only thing he was acquitted of was aiding the enemy, the most serious charge.

This week, military prosecutors said they wanted him to spend about 60 years in prison. But his defense lawyer, David Coombs, argued 25 years sounded about right. He wanted Manning to be able to get out and have something of a life, to go to college and make something of himself.

MONTAGNE: Well, ultimately, how many years would he be expected to actually serve with this sentence?

JOHNSON: Excellent question, Renee. Bradley Manning will get credit for time served, which is now more than three years, as well as some extra credit for some abusive treatment he suffered in a military brig in Virginia. Bradley Manning, generously, will be eligible to seek parole after about eight years and change of serving his sentence.

MONTAGNE: Now, this prison sentence by Judge Denise Lind is not the end of the story.

JOHNSON: Not at all. The sentence will be reviewed by the chief in the military district in the Washington, D.C. area, and he could lessen the sentence. Manning gets essentially an automatic appeal, as well. Supporters say they may want to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, or even ask President Obama to give Manning clemency.

They say Bradley Manning was motivated by an effort to expose civilian casualties and misconduct and hypocrisy in U.S. foreign policy. He wanted to help, not hurt, people, as Manning told the judge last week.

MONTAGNE: The Obama administration, though, has been undertaking an unprecedented crackdown on information, government leaks. How does this Manning sentence play into that campaign and the position of the White House?

JOHNSON: There's no doubt that this administration wanted to make an example of Bradley Manning, who, after all, caused the Obama White House and the State Department and the Justice Department, as well as the Pentagon some huge amount of embarrassment by releasing secret diplomatic cables, field reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Bradley Manning has been held for more than three years, as I said, in sometimes very tough conditions. But there still have been big leaks in the time that he's been in custody, like the ones by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden, of course, is facing Espionage Act charges, just like Manning had, but Snowden's in Russia for the time being, and right now beyond the arm of American law enforcement.

That said, Renee, there's been some immediate reaction to this sentence by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, both of which point out that Bradley Manning is going to be serving more time than people in Abu Ghraib and some people convicted of war crimes in this administration.

MONTAGNE: So that's a little bit of - there has been a little bit of reaction.

JOHNSON: Absolutely. There's been some immediate reaction, and we expect a lot more in the day to come.

MONTAGNE: Carrie, thanks very much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.