U.S. military judge trims potential sentence in WikiLeaks case

FORT MEADE, Maryland Tue Aug 6, 2013 4:25pm EDT

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is escorted into court for the second day of the sentencing phase in his military trial at Fort Meade, Maryland August 1, 2013. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is escorted into court for the second day of the sentencing phase in his military trial at Fort Meade, Maryland August 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/James Lawler Duggan

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FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The military judge who last week convicted soldier Bradley Manning of committing the biggest breach of classified data in U.S. history through WikiLeaks on Tuesday trimmed the maximum prison sentence the private first class could face.

But the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst could still be spending the rest of his life behind bars after Judge Colonel Denise Lind ruled that he could face a maximum sentence of 90, rather than 136, years for turning over more than 700,000 battlefield videos, diplomatic cables and other secret documents to WikiLeaks.

Manning's attorneys had objected that the prosecution was overreaching in seeking separate sentences for all the espionage charges. His lawyers acknowledged he had downloaded files on different days, but said he grouped many of them into single files before transmitting them in 2010 to WikiLeaks, a pro-transparency website.

Lind, who convicted Manning of 19 criminal counts, ruled that some counts resulted from the same sequence of actions by Manning and should be merged to avoid "an unreasonable multiplication of charges."

For most of the espionage charges resulting from the transmissions, "there is no evidence of prosecutorial overreaching," Lind said.

The court-martial of the slightly built soldier, who was working as an analyst in Iraq when he released the documents to the anti-secrecy site, has drawn international scrutiny. The trove of documents he provided catapulted WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, into the spotlight.

The U.S. government contended that releasing classified information threatened national security.

Access to classified information remains a sensitive subject after Edward Snowden, a U.S. intelligence contractor, this summer revealed the super-secret National Security Agency program to collect phone and Internet records.

Manning, a low-level intelligence analyst described during the trial as an Internet expert, faces the prospect of decades of prison monotony without online access, likely at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

MISTREATMENT

The sentencing phase of Manning's court-martial began last week and is expected to last at least until Friday. Lind ruled during preliminary hearings that the sentence would be trimmed by 112 days because Manning was mistreated following his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.

Manning last week was found not guilty of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, which carried the threat of life in prison without parole, and his lawyers have portrayed him as naive but well intentioned. They argue his aim was to provoke a broader debate on U.S. military policy, not to harm anyone.

After Lind's ruling, two military officials - Major General Michael Nagata, the deputy chief for the Office of the Defense Representative to Pakistan from 2009 to 2011, and Air Force Colonel Julian Chesnutt, a U.S. military adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan from 2010 to 2012 - testified behind closed doors on the impact of the WikiLeaks releases on relations with Islamabad.

Lind also ruled she would not allow the prosecution's "aggravation evidence" to be considered in sentencing unless it could be shown to be "a direct and immediate result" of information he gave to WikiLeaks. Aggravation evidence refers to problems that worsened because of a criminal offense.

Examples of evidence the judge said she would not allow include testimony last week from a retired army brigadier general that the Taliban apparently used WikiLeaks information to track down an enemy in Afghanistan and kill him.

In a sign of the international furor the Manning case has generated, a play about the gay soldier won a newly created drama prize on Tuesday at Britain's oldest literary awards.

(Editing by Ian Simpson, Chris Reese and Bernard Orr)

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Comments (19)
Jamia wrote:
Dear Leader is generous to Bradley, perhaps promotion to General of People’s United States Army should be in effect.

Aug 06, 2013 12:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Hawk420 wrote:
Why is it the rule of law so easy to dismiss.
The man violated the law.
You go to prison
No One Is above the law
Not him not Mr. Sownden
The only thing we have seen is who are the ones who would destroy society because of their irrational fear and those who cling to the ideas that made personal freedom possible

Aug 06, 2013 1:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Fractlfenx wrote:
@hawk420 So the guy who has slang for marijuana in his handle is talking about freedom and consequences… that’s irony for you. Let me spell it out for you the “Rule of law” was already dismissed when the US government killed journalists in Afghanistan in a blatant war crime, Manning takes the evidence to his superiors and they dismiss it and tell him to move on… he does by leaking to the press. Now the people who committed the war crimes are not punished but he is. The superiors who ignored his reporting of a war crime are not punished. The rule of law should apply to everyone equally. Right now it does not apply to the US government and you’re not scared by this instead you applaud the true law breakers in persecuting someone who did the right thing. This is why America is heading into fascism.

Aug 06, 2013 2:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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