On Wednesday, Judge Denise Lind, an Army colonel, sentenced U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization. Counting the 1,293 days of confinement he has been credited with, Manning, 25, will be eligible for parole in a little over seven years.
To some, Manning is a hero, but their idea of heroism is somewhat skewed. There was nothing patriotic about Manning’s actions. They were the actions of a person unhappy about his current situation. No one would argue that Manning is a troubled young man. But those problems in no way excuse the acts that led to his court-martial and the subsequent guilty verdict last week.
Manning was a soldier. Even though he was not convicted of the more serious charges against him of aiding the enemy – which could have led to the death penalty – Manning’s actions put other American soldiers’ lives in danger. In his actions – both during his time in Afghanistan and after he was arrested – he showed little regard for that potential. There can be no excuse for that.
Manning’s case has been compared to former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden who also released hundreds of sensitive documents before fleeing the country and finding refuge in Russia. However, while those documents were embarrassing to the United States, they did not put American lives at risk as did Manning’s actions.
Military prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow asked Judge Lind to sentence Manning to 60 years because “national security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously.”
With the 35-year sentence, and the possibility of parole in less than eight years, Lind gave Manning a gift. Perhaps that is fair.
Manning may now have the opportunity to get the help he has long needed so he can live a productive life when he is released.