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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs