World News

US Army Intelligence Leaker Gets 35-Year Prison Term

U.S. Army private Bradley Manning has been sentenced to a 35-year prison term for handing a vast collection of classified information to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in the biggest breach of official secrets in American history.

A U.S. military judge, Colonel Denise Lind, imposed the lengthy term Wednesday at the Fort Meade military base in (the eastern state of) Maryland. She said the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst would be dishonorably discharged from the military and forfeit his pay.

Manning had faced as much as 90 years in prison, with government prosecutors calling for a 60-year sentence and Manning's lawyers asking for leniency to give him a chance at rehabilitating his life. Under military prison rules, he could be eligible for parole in about seven years.

The sentencing ended a 12-week trial and a lengthy legal battle over Manning's intentions when he disclosed more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks. The documents included U.S. State Department diplomatic cables and American battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. One video showed a U.S. helicopter attack that killed two civilians.

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, the government's former chief prosecutor against accused terrorists held at the Guantanamo base in Cuba, testified on behalf of Manning. Davis told VOA that Manning deserved a stiff sentence for leaking the information, but that the documents he disclosed mostly served to embarrass the U.S. rather than harm it.





"There was no real value to al-Qaida or anyone else from these classified documents when they could go on Google and get the same information. So, I think that doesn't excuse turning over classified documents, but in assessing the harm, it's hard to see where there's any real harm here other than just embarrassment to the U.S. government."



Manning and his defense lawyers claimed that he had idealistic intentions in releasing the information, believing he could expose the truth about U.S. involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His lawyers also said the gay soldier's gender identity crisis contributed to his actions at a time when the U.S. expelled military personnel who were openly homosexual.

In a courtroom apology last week, Manning told Lind, "I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people."

But government prosecutors called Manning "the determined insider," who within weeks of his 2009 deployment to Iraq had started working to disclose the cache of information to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. They called his release of the information "destructive" to U.S. interests.

Lind last month convicted Manning of 20 of the 22 criminal charges he faced, but not of aiding the enemy, the most serious offense he faced, which carried a possible term of life imprisonment without parole.

Under U.S. military law, prisoners can earn up to 120 days a year off their sentences with good behavior behind bars, but must serve at least one third of their term before being eligible for parole. Manning will receive credit for the three and a half years he has already been confined.

WikiLeaks called the sentence a "strategic victory," since he will be eligible for parole in less than nine years.

Manning has drawn a small group of supporters who consider him a whistleblower who legitimately exposed inconvenient, war-time truths the government did not want divulged. Some of them shouted support for him as guards led him away after he was sentenced.

Later, his lawyer, David Coombs, said he would ask U.S. President Barack Obama to pardon Manning for his offenses.

The outcome of the Manning case has been watched closely as the U.S. deals with new disclosures in recent weeks by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden about clandestine spy programs conducted out by the country's National Security Agency. Snowden is now living in Russia in temporary asylum, with Moscow rejecting a request by Mr. Obama to expel him to stand trial in the U.S. on espionage charges.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs