WikiLeaks source and United States Army private Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday.
He was found guilty on 20 of 22 charges in July, and the 25-year-old could have received a sentence of up to 90 years in jail. He will be eligible for parole after a third of his 35-year sentence is served, according to BuzzFeed, and he will receive credit for the three years he has already served.
Manning was sentenced for releasing hundreds of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks in 2010 – the United States’ largest-ever leak. The files included videos of the 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike, as well as 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and 500,000 army reports now known as the Iraq War logs and the Afghan War logs.
WikiLeaks published most of the material between April and November, 2010.
“I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people,” he said last week, according to CTV News (AP).
Manning delivered a full statement on his actions in court last week.
He also said, “I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I am sorry that it hurt the United States.
“The last few years have been a learning experience. I look back at my decisions and wonder, ‘How on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority?'”
Popular opinion of Manning has been divided since his incarceration – much like it has been divided on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
Many have called Manning a traitor, while others have called him a hero or simply a whistleblower. The entire matter has often transcended into a larger discussion of security vs. open information.
The poster in the photo above (taken near Washington, D.C.) reads “Free Bradley Manning: Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime”.
“WikiLeaks was the story of the year, I can’t think of another story, which has been created by a newspaper, that has been bigger,” said The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in 2011. “It has been discussed in every capital city in the world. It wasn’t handed to us on a plate – it was a lot of work.”
Rusbridger made those (and the following) comments while accepting the Guardian‘s award for newspaper of the year at the 2010-11 Press Awards.
(The quotes were published by the website FreeBradleyManning.org.)
“It’s no secret we have had our ups and downs with (Assange), he’s an interesting man and a difficult man, but I think at a time when the eyes of the world will be on how America reacts I hope they don’t go for him in the way that has been suggested and I hope very much that they treat Bradley Manning properly.
“I think we should remember those two men – and particularly Bradley Manning – tonight.”
On Wednesday, Amnesty International released a statement on their website, directed at the U.S. government and President Barack Obama.
The post is titled “USA: Commute Bradley Manning’s sentence and investigate the abuses he exposed”.
“Instead of fighting tooth and nail to lock him up for the equivalent of several life sentences, the US government should turn its attention to investigating and delivering justice for the serious human rights abuses committed by its officials in the name of countering terror,” it said.