Maggie: It is a case that has divided opinion worldwide. Some say the man behind one of the largest leaks of classified information is a traitor. Others say he is a hero. After three years, his case has finally come to a close. Scott Evans has the story.
Scott: Security escorted Bradley Manning into a military courtroom yesterday where he learned his fate. A military judge sentenced the 25-year-old Army analyst to 35 years in prison. He will be dishonorably discharged and forfeit all pay and benefits. The sentence is the longest ever handed down in a case like this.
Manning was convicted of giving WikiLeaks, a controversial website that publishes top- secret info, more than 700,000 classified documents. The leak showed the heavy civilian death toll during the Iraq War and instances of prisoner abuse. It also included private messages to diplomats and this video from 2007 of a U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians in Iraq. Comments were even included about leaders around the world, like this one that described the Russian president as ‘afraid and hesitant,’ and Afghan President Hamid Karzai is described as being ‘driven by paranoia.’
The leak, officials said, wasn’t just embarrassing, but it puts peoples’ lives in danger – people who were working behind the scenes.
The leak gave the world an inside look at how the U.S. was operating. The documents even contained specific instructions to collect things like credit card numbers and, in some cases, even DNA samples and fingerprints. The U.S. government said the leak left the country vulnerable and made foreign officials more cautious and even suspicious when dealing with American diplomats.
Last week, Manning apologized, saying, ‘I understand that I must pay a price for my decisions and actions.’
His lawyers tried to argue for a lesser sentence, saying their client was under severe emotional distress. Manning was a low-level analyst when he leaked the information. He said he did it to start a public debate about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His supporters call him a hero, and a small group of them gathered outside the military base where he was sentenced.
Jeff Patterson: And he did a heroic thing while most people kept their mouths shut.
Scott: The documents Manning released represent the largest leak in classified information in U.S. history.
Scott: With good behavior he could shave several years off his prison sentence and he will get a credit for the more than three years he has already spent in custody.
Scott Evans, Channel One News.