US Army Private Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified US documents to WikiLeaks.
“You are sentenced to 35 years and ordered to be dishonorably discharged,” military judge Colonel Denise Lind said in a short statement on Wednesday.
Last month, the 25-year-old soldier was found guilty on five counts of violating the Espionage Act for leaking the secret documents to the anti-secrecy group in 2010.
The private, however, was acquitted of the aiding the enemy charge, which was the most serious of his charges.
On Monday, prosecutors asked for a 60-year jail term for Manning. However, Manning’s defense attorney David Coombs appealed for leniency because he had cooperated with the court.
Meanwhile, a group of people gathered outside the gate of Fort George G. Meade, Maryland to protest against Manning’s sentencing.
Manning has admitted to disclosing over 470,000 documents related to Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and other material, including several battlefield video clips which brought major embarrassment to the US government after WikiLeaks published most of the material online.
In a sentencing session earlier this month, Manning apologized for unintended consequence of leaking the documents to WikiLeaks.
“I am sorry for unintended consequence of my actions. When I made these decisions, I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people … I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States. At the time of the decision, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing,” Manning said.
The American whistleblower, who was an intelligence analyst at a US base near Baghdad, was detained in Iraq in 2010 and has been in military custody ever since.
The administration of President Barack Obama has come under widespread criticism by freedom of speech advocates for what they call waging a war on whistleblowers.
“Barack Obama has proceeded with more prosecutions against whistleblowers for espionage than all previous presidents combined going all the way back to 1917,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said last month. “In fact he’s done double.”
Charges have been laid against seven current or former federal government employees or contractors for disclosing government secrets since Obama took office in 2009.
They include Edward Snowden, John Kiriakou, Jeffrey Sterling, Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake, Stephen Kim, and Shamai Leibowitz. In each case, the charges were brought under the Espionage Act of 1917.
This is while prior to the Obama administration, the Espionage Act had been used only three times against five individuals.