PENTAGON — A military judge has sentenced Army Private Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for espionage. He provided 750,000 secret files to WikiLeaks in what is considered the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.
After three years in prison, the 25-year-old soldier and former intelligence analyst arrived at military court to hear his sentence: 35 years for committing espionage.
It's much lighter than the 90 years he could have gotten for digging up and releasing hundreds of thousands of files including State Department cables, military field reports, and videos like this one that shows U.S. troops firing on civilians in Baghdad.
Manning says he did it to expose the wrongfulness of war and U.S. actions overseas. The government called him a traitor.
In the end, testimony pointed to no specific harm and no deaths caused by the leaks.
Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Morris Davis is a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo who testified on Manning's behalf.
“The worst thing Bradley Manning did is embarrass the country," said Davis.
In consultation with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Manning searched for the material while deployed in Iraq.
Some of the documents published by Wikileaks were found in Osama Bin Ladin's compound in Pakistan.
However, the judge cleared Manning of the more serious charge of aiding the enemy.
In the sentencing phase, Manning pleaded for a lighter sentence and a chance to mend his life. He said he meant to do good and expressed regret for harming the United States.
The court martial also raised questions about why the U.S. Army put Manning in such a sensitive position after testimony revealed he had severe emotional problems, including what a military psychiatrist described as a gender identity disorder for which he did not receive treatment while in Iraq.
Manning sent this photo, showing himself wearing a wig and makeup, to his immediate superior along with an e-mail in which he said his gender problem was causing him pain and problems in his career.
Tommy Sears heads the Center for Military Readiness, which has criticized the U.S. military's 2011 repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the military. He believes the leaks might not have happened if Manning had received help for his emotional issues.
"Certainly there needs to be some closer scrutiny in terms of people who really have some kind of problem whether it's psychological or otherwise which he himself obviously reported up his own chain and nothing was done about it any way that was effective in preventing him from ultimately taking this bad course of action," said Sears.
The sentence is lighter than it could have been, but for Manning's supporters - it's still too much for a young man they say is a hero.
Manning will serve less than the 35 years, getting credit for the three years already served.