US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison yesterday for providing secret files to WikiLeaks in the biggest breach of classified data in US history.
Judge Colonel Denise Lind, who last month convicted him of 20 charges including espionage and theft, could have sentenced him to as many as 90 years in prison, though prosecutors had asked for 60 years.
Manning will be dishonorably discharged from the US military and forfeit some of his pay, Lind said.
In a brief hearing, the judge didn’t offer any explanation for the sentence. Manning stood at attention and appeared not to react.
The closely watched case has seen the 25-year-old called both a whistleblower and a traitor.
Prosecutors wanted at least a 60-year prison sentence, saying it would dissuade other soldiers from following in Manning’s footsteps. The defense suggested a prison term of no more than 25 years so that Manning could rebuild his life.
Manning will get credit for the more than three years he has been held, but he will have to serve at least one-third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
He leaked more than 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and US Department of State diplomatic cables in 2010 while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
He was convicted last month of 20 offenses, including six Espionage Act violations, five theft counts and computer fraud. Prosecutors were unable to prove that he aided the enemy, a crime punishable by life in prison.
Manning has apologized and said he wanted to expose the US military’s “bloodlust’’ and generate debate over the wars and US policy.
“I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people,’’ he said last week.
His defense team said he was under severe mental pressure as a young man struggling with gender identity issues at a time when openly gay people were not allowed to serve in the military. Among the evidence was a photograph of him in a blond wig and lipstick.
Prosecutors said the leaks endangered the lives of US intelligence sources and prompted several ambassadors to be recalled, reassigned or expelled. They did not present any evidence in open court that anyone was physically harmed as a direct result of Manning’s actions.
Prosecutors requested a far longer prison term for Manning than other soldiers have received in recent decades for sharing government secrets.
Albert Sombolay got a 34-year-sentence in 1991 for giving a Jordanian intelligence agent information on the buildup for the first Iraq war, plus other documents and samples of US Army chemical protection equipment.
Clayton Lonetree, the only Marine ever convicted of espionage, was given a 30-year sentence, later reduced to 15 years, for giving the Soviet KGB the identities of CIA agents and the floor plans of the embassies in Moscow and Vienna in the early 1980s.
Amnesty International and the Bradley Manning Support Network have announced an online petition asking US President Barack Obama to pardon Manning.
This story has been updated since it was first published.