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.
Carla Babb
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.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More