Government asks for 60-year sentence for Bradley Manning

By Paul Lewis, The Guardian
Monday, August 19, 2013 15:14 EDT
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Chelsea Manning leaves a military court, on June 6, 2012 in Fort Meade, Maryland. [AFP]
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The US government has urged a military judge to sentence Bradley Manning to 60 years in prison, arguing that the solider, who leaked a huge collection of classified documents to WikiLeaks, “deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life” in custody.

The request was made by military lawyers on Monday, in the final stages of the soldier’s court martial for leaking hundreds of thousands documents to the anti-secrecy website. The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said she will start deliberations at 9am on Tuesday

Manning was found guilty last month of 20 counts, seven under the Espionage Act, but acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

In recent weeks, in a series of sentencing hearings, the prosecution and defence have been lobbying the judge over the severity of punishment the 25-year-old soldier should face.

Captain Joe Morrow, a military prosecution lawyer, told the court that there may not be a soldier in the history of the US who had shown such an “extreme disregard” for US security interests.

He said that Manning’s actions created a grave risk to the US, disrupting diplomatic missions and endangering the lives of civilians and soldiers when he downloaded and then leaked classified documents while stationed in Iraq in 2010.

Morrow said Manning repeatedly abused his security clearance when he had access to army IT systems, saying that each day he had access to a classified computer was an opportunity for the soldier to “stick his finger in the eye of the classification system”.

He said that the soldier’s crimes were “egregious enough to warrant 60 years”, adding: “The US does not make this request lightly.” He also recommended Manning receive a dishonourable discharge and a $100,000 fine, and a minimum of 60 years in prison. He said Manning “deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in prison”.

He told the judge presiding over the tribunal that Manning could not blame the leaks on failings by senior officers. “Pfc Manning is solely responsible for his crimes. Pfc Manning is solely responsible for the impacts.”

Manning is facing a maximum possible sentence of 90 years in prison, although few military experts believe he will be sentenced to the full amount.

Manning is expected to be sentenced in the next few days, possibly as soon as Tuesday.

The army private’s defence team have recently argued that his senior officers failed to act on a series of “red flags” that should have alerted them to Manning’s vulnerable emotional state.

Morrow rejected these arguments. “The focus should be squarely on Pfc Manning,” he said. “This is about him. The is about the damage he caused.”

“It wasn’t the military’s fault, it was the command’s fault. It wasn’t because he saw something horrible,” he added. “It is because he had an agenda.”

Morrow called Manning a “determined insider” and rejected the suggestion he believed his leaks would help spark a debate about US military action.

“It wasn’t a greater good,” he said. “It wasn’t good at all. It was destructive.”

Morrow called on the judge to consider the sentence as a preventative measure, to discourage another leak on the scale of more than 700,000 classified documents in an era of mass databases.

“Your sentence can ensure we never see a number like this again,” he said. “If you betray your country, you do not deserve mercy in a court of law.”

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