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."
For more information on Bradley Manning, read:
- Traitor or Hero? The Law Doesn’t Care. (8/23/13)
- Al Jazeera: Elizabeth Goitein Discusses Manning Sentence (8/21/13)
- WSJ Live: Faiza Patel on Bradley Manning Sentence (8/21/13)
- National Security Whistleblowing: A Gap in the Law (8/21/13)
- The Meaning of the Manning Verdict (7/31/13)
- Beyond Bradley Manning (7/31/13)
- Manning Found Guilty on Espionage Act Charges, Acquitted of “Aiding the Enemy” (7/30/13)
- Manning and Snowden: Wakeup Call on Overclassification (7/10/13)
- Bradley Manning Didn't Break the Secrecy System (12/13/11)