News / USA

    Manning Supporters Disappointed By Lengthy Sentence

    David Coombs, defense attorney for Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, shakes hands with supporters at a news conference in Hanover, Md.,after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks,  Aug. 21, 2013.
    David Coombs, defense attorney for Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, shakes hands with supporters at a news conference in Hanover, Md.,after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, Aug. 21, 2013.
    The military and the government have deemed U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning a lawbreaker. But supporters say he is a whistleblower, and they have spoken out after a military judge sentenced him Wednesday to 35 years in prison for giving U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks.

    Shocking. Unfair. Those are the words supporters used to describe Bradley Manning's 35-year prison sentence for giving U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks - secrets that sparked a dialogue about the activities of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, told reporters outside Fort Meade, near Washington, that the lengthy sentence brought him to tears.

    "When I heard the sentence I thought to myself, I've represented hundreds of clients. My clients have ranged the full spectrum of people offenses - from people who've committed murder to people who have molested children - and those types of clients received less time that PFC Manning," said Coombs.

    The military judge ordered Manning to be dishonorably discharged for his part in the biggest breach of classified documents in American history. The government has called his release of information "destructive" to U.S. interests.

    But Manning's lawyer likened the army private's actions to anyone who legitimately exposed wartime truths. He called his case a watershed moment in press freedom that threatens the flow of information to the public.

    "The loser is anybody who hopes that we will have whistleblowers in the future willing to come forward, because, as I said before, this does send a message, and its a chilling one, and it's endorsed at the very highest levels," he said.

    About 20 supporters gathered outside a busy highway at the entrance of the fort ahead of Manning's sentencing.

    Key Dates in WikiLeaks

    • 2006: Set up by a group of people, including Australian Julian Assange.
    • 2008: Publishes the contents of Sarah Palin's hacked e-mail account.
    • 2009: Posts thousands of text messages from U.S. emergency workers and military personnel from September 11, 2001.
    • 2010: Releases hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables.
    • 2011: Assange appeals extradition from Britain to Sweden on sex crimes charges.
    • 2012: British court upholds extradition of Assange, who takes refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London.  Ecuador grants him asylum in August.
    • 2013: U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years after being found not guilty of aiding the enemy but guilty of several other charges for leaking U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks.
    Farah Muhsin defiantly held up a sign that read "Thank you, Bradley Manning," even as some drivers in the military town honked and shouted obscenities out of their windows.

    "Bradley Manning did the right thing in my opinion. He saw war crimes and he refused to be quiet about it," said Muhsin.

    Not all in the military community disapprove of Manning's actions. Take Ken Howland, for instance. The former military medic in the Vietnam War protested at Fort Meade in support of Manning for hours. He told VOA he, too, would have leaked information if he thought it exposed war crimes.

    "Soldiers' duty, honor country, and you might add the truth. That's rather important and that's something worth fighting for, but people should know what's going on and he made an effort to do that," said Howland.

    Manning's lawyer says the next step will be to appeal to the military's convening authority to try to reduce his sentence. He also is filing a request to have the president pardon Manning.

    "The time for our president to focus on protecting whistleblowers instead of punishing them is now. The time for our president to pardon is now," said Coombs.

    Manning writes in a letter read by his lawyer that if the president does not pardon him, he will serve his time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. He could be eligible for parole in about seven years.

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her bylines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.