FORT MEADE, Md. — A military judge sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning on Wednesday to 35 years in prison for providing more than 700,000 government files to WikiLeaks, a gigantic leak that lifted the veil on U.S. military and diplomatic activities around the world.
The sentence is the longest ever handed down in a case involving a leak of U.S. government information for the purpose of having the information reported to the public. Manning, 25, will be eligible for parole in about seven years, his lawyer said.
In a two-minute hearing Wednesday morning, the judge, Army Col. Denise R. Lind, also said Manning would be dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank from private first class to private, the lowest rank in the military. She said he would forfeit his pay but she did not impose a fine.
Before the sentencing, Manning sat leaning forward with his hands folded, whispering to his lawyer, David Coombs. His aunt and two cousins sat quietly behind him. When Lind read the sentence, Manning stood, showing no expression. He did not make a statement.
The materials that Manning gave to WikiLeaks included a video taken during a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which civilians were killed, including two journalists. He also gave WikiLeaks some 250,000 diplomatic cables, dossiers of detainees being imprisoned without trial at Guant’namo Bay, Cuba, and hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Immediately after the judge left, military guards flanked Manning and hustled him out the front of the courtroom as a half-dozen supporters in the back of the courtroom shouted words of encouragement at him.
‘We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley,’ one shouted. Another said, ‘You are a hero.’ After Manning left the room, another supporter yelled, ‘We love you.’
Coombs later told reporters that he would apply for a presidential pardon next week and read a statement from Manning that he said would be included in his request.
‘I only wanted to help people,’ Manning’s statement said, adding, ‘If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.’
A White House spokesman said a request would be considered ‘like any other application.’
Coombs also said that he had wept after they left the courtroom and that Manning told him, ‘It’s OK.’
Manning downloaded the materials from a classified computer network to which he had access as a low-level Army intelligence analyst while deployed in Iraq in 2010. The documents he gave to WikiLeaks set off a scramble inside the government as officials sought to minimize any harm, including protecting foreign nationals identified in some documents as having helped U.S. diplomats or the military. No evidence emerged that anyone was killed because of the leaks.