5 Could Be Worse
The 20 charges that Bradley Manning was found guilty of originally carried the possibility of a 136-year prison sentence, which the judge later reduced to a maximum of 90 years. And if Army prosecutors had it their way, Manning would have faced a term of no less than 60 years. So while 35 years in military prison isn’t exactly a cakewalk, things could have been much worse for Manning.
4 Could Be Too Harsh
Even Manning’s most staunch supporters can’t argue that regardless of how ethical his actions may have been, they were still highly illegal. But legal technicalities aside, Manning exposed torture, war crimes, misconduct and abuse in the US military. He now faces a 35-year sentence, while those who allowed these actions to take place face no charges. In addition to that, it was not proven that Manning’s leaks were directly responsible for any deaths. So while his opponents feel he got off easy, it’s not hard to understand why his supporters say just the opposite.
While the genuine motivation of a defendant in any given case is hard to quantify, Manning’s supposed intentions came very much into play. His defense attorney continually made an effort to paint Manning as a naïve young soldier who genuinely believed he was looking out for the greater good. Manning even issued an apology, which included the admission that he “should have worked more aggressively inside the system” to expose the wrongs that he witnessed. Whether it was genuine or not is up for debate, but it could have definitely played a role in Manning receiving what some would call a “reduced” sentence.
2 Almost Life
Being convicted of 20 crimes is nothing to scoff at, but Bradley Manning did manage to avoid the big one. In addition to the multitude of charges he was hit with, Manning also faced a charge of aiding the enemy, which carries with it a life sentence. He was found not guilty of this particular crime, likely due to the fact that he was only feeding information to a publication. However, some would argue that the information he provided was publicly available, and thus exposed our military and possibly put our soldiers’ lives in danger.
1 Massive Leak
The charges Manning faced stemmed from an incident that started back in 2007, when he was detained for leaking a video that showed an Apache helicopter attack that killed Iraqi civilians and two Reuters war correspondents. He was court-martialed three years later, and eventually charged with the leak of 750,000 documents that were made up of battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as diplomatic cables. The release of these extensive documents is now considered the most substantial leak of classified information in U.S. history.
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