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Bradley Manning Sentenced to Thirty-Five Years in Prison—and Reactions | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Bradley Manning Sentenced to Thirty-Five Years in Prison—and Reactions


US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

Pfc. Bradley Manning sentenced by judge, Denise Lind, to thirty-five years in prison this morning. Here’s my live-blogging.

1:45 At press conference going on now, Manning attorney David Coombs says he will formally ask President Obama to pardon the soldier “or at the very least commute his sentence to time served.” Also reads statement from Manning: “We consciously elected to devalue human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Also Manning quotes Howard Zinn: “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” Amnesty Int’l also just made that “time served” request.

Coombs says he in Manning both “in tears” after sentencing but Manning cheered him up. Reveals that early gov’t plea deal called for sentence longer than thirty-five years—and Manning would have had to testify. Coombs’ advice to Edward Snowden: “Current environment isn’t friendly to whistleblowers.”

12:30 pm Alex Gibney, director of the We Steal Secrets film, tweets: “Outrageous sentence of Bradley Manning. terrible day for US.… No prosecutions for torture sanctioned by US officials but Manning gets 35 years. Is that justice? BM is 21st century Eddie Slovik.” Gibney, in our interview months ago, raised the case of the executed World War II soldier repeatedly…

12:15 Great Twitter storm after David Frum tweeted “shocker” that you’d get punished if you released national security secrets. Many responded with such as “Shocker—murder civilians and not punished.” Or “Shocker—torture and no consequences.” Or: “Invade country with lies—no penalty.”

11:30 Response from ACLU: Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project—

“When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system. A legal system that doesn’t distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”

11:15 My full accounting of Manning’s leaks and effects—and amazingly long list.

11:10 Response from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

We are outraged that a whistleblower and a patriot has been sentenced on a conviction under the Espionage Act. The government has stretched this archaic and discredited law to send an unmistakable warning to potential whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish their information. We can only hope that Manning’s courage will continue to inspire others who witness state crimes to speak up.

This show trial was a frontal assault on the First Amendment, from the way the prosecution twisted Manning’s actions to blur the distinction between whistleblowing and spying to the government’s tireless efforts to obstruct media coverage of the proceedings. It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes he exposed are not even investigated. Every aspect of this case sets a dangerous precedent for future prosecutions of whistleblowers—who play an essential role in democratic government by telling us the truth about government wrongdoing—and we fear for the future of our country in the wake of this case.

We must channel our outrage and continue building political pressure for Manning’s freedom. President Obama should pardon Bradley Manning, and if he refuses, a presidential pardon must be an election issue in 2016.

11 Full report from the scene by Kevin Gosztola, who first helped me with Manning coverage at the beginning here at The Nation.

10:20 Manning gets thirty-five years. Forfeit of all pay & allowances. Dishonorably discharged. Minus 1294 days for time detained and treatment at Quantico. MSNBC military experts says eligible to get out in ten years. CNN guest says sentence can be reviewed in six months. Glenn Greenwald tweets: “Sick, sad, pathetic, and disgusting…. gee, I wonder why Snowden doesn’t trust US justice as a whistleblower.”

10:00 Slight delay. Nothing new. Alexa O’Brien tweets: “Manning was held longer than any accused awaiting court-martial history of US mil law. Judge ruled that Speedy Trial rights not violated.” Manning attorney to not speak to media until 1:30 pm.

9:30 Manning will get credit for time “served” (over 1,000 days) and for over 100 days of “torture” at Quantico.

9 am Gosztola: Media being sniffed by dogs one last time in court-martial before being escorted on base… Government has asked for sixty-year sentence. Defense asks that he get sentence that “allows him to have a life.” Alexa O’Brien: “All the networks are here. I am told MSNBC showed up for the first or second time yesterday.” Chris Hedges and Cornel West, who have attended on some other days, also have arrived.

Kevin Gosztola, co-author of our Manning book, Truth and Consequences, completes quite a saga—he’s been at nearly all of hearings and trial days and now sentencing segment for the past, what, eighteen months, with only two or three others. Of course, this will be one of the very rare days where a bunch of other media will show up. My post on plans to seek clemency and pardon, and protests tonight. My post on whether Manning will get longer sentence that Sgt. Robert Bales, who killed 16.

Greg Mitchell’s latest book, published last week, is Vonnegut and Me: Conversations and Close Encounters.

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