FT. MEADE, Md. – A military judge will tell Army Pfc. Bradley Manning at 10 a.m. EDT today how long he must serve in prison for illegally leaking a vast trove of classified U.S. military and diplomatic materials to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
Army Col. Denise Lind will deliver the sentence. She found Manning guilty last month of six counts of violating the Espionage Act and mishandling classified material, but she acquitted him of a more serious charge of aiding the enemy.
Manning’s supporters, who consider him a hero for exposing government secrets, plan a vigil outside the gates of Ft. Meade, where the court-martial has taken place, and have announced an evening rally outside the White House.
Manning, 25, faces a maximum potential sentence of 90 years in prison, but in the final phase of the trial, prosecutors urged the judge to sentence him to 60 years behind bars.
Manning’s lawyers asked the judge to show leniency, suggesting a 25-year term, after he apologized to the court and said he hadn’t intended to hurt anyone.
Manning, 25, will probably be moved to the Army’s central prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. In the months ahead, his attorneys plan to file appeals against his conviction and petition for clemency and a presidential pardon.
The court-martial convening authority, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, must approve the judge’s findings in the case. He can reduce the conviction and the sentence, but he can't increase them.
Military prosecutors, who had sought a life sentence for Manning when the court-martial began June 3, argued that he knew the leaked classified material would end up on the Internet and be made accessible to Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Some of the data was found on computers recovered from Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, authorities said.
The prosecutors said Manning’s decision to release more than 700,000 war logs, terrorist detainee assessments, State Department cables and other materials onto the Internet harmed U.S. security and put people’s lives at risk.
Defense lawyers initially portrayed Manning as a whistle-blower who had exposed government wrongdoing. They said he was deeply troubled by materials he saw while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010, and that he wanted to warn the public about abuses in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After Manning was convicted, however, his lawyers sought leniency by saying he suffered from “gender identity disorder” and other personal problems that should have made him unfit for military service.