The American Civil Liberties Union called it a “sad day” for Manning as well as for the American public.
“A legal system that doesn’t distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s speech, privacy and technology project.
The court-martial was held at Fort Meade, a tightly secured facility north of Washington that’s also the home of the secretive National Security Agency. A stenographer funded by public and media contributions provided a running transcript of the trial proceedings that began June 3.
Manning had agreed to plead guilty to certain charges that had carried a potential prison sentence of 20 years, but prosecutors charged him with additional counts, including espionage.
To shape her sentencing decision, which she reached after about a day of formal deliberations, Lind heard testimony from witnesses in both closed- and open-court sessions. The government’s military and State Department witnesses emphasized the damage done by Manning’s actions and the subsequent publication by WikiLeaks.
“When this data got out, there was a number of foreign partners that were routinely engaged with me who became greatly concerned whether we were still a trusted partner,” testified retired Army Brig. Gen. Robert Carr, formerly with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Defense witnesses focused on Manning’s troubled upbringing as the anxious child of alcoholic parents. One diagnosis determined the gay, slightly built Manning suffered from “gender identity disorder,” which included periods when he passed himself off as a woman.
Manning’s “grandiose” delusions, added Navy Capt. David Moulton, a psychiatrist, led the young Army private first class to believe he could “do something great” with his life and further led him to underestimate the trouble he’d catch for leaking military documents.
“Sometimes,” Manning said in his post-sentencing statement, “you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”