Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison

August 21, 2013

Today a military judge sentenced Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for violating the Espionage Act and other federal laws by disclosing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Spies who funnel information directly to the enemy have frequently served lengthy sentences under the Espionage Act. Before the Obama administration, there were only three Espionage Act prosecutions brought for disclosing information to the media, and the longest sentence imposed was two years. While significantly less than the 60 years requested by prosecutors, the judge's sentence in Manning's case is the longest ever imposed for a media leak.

"This sentence is precedent-setting for all the wrong reasons," said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Spies and traitors have always been subject to the most severe criminal penalties, so Manning's sentence doesn't change the legal landscape for them. On the other hand, public servants who come across improperly classified evidence of government misconduct and want to blow the whistle will now think twice."

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