Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison for WikiLeaks convictions

Former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for carrying out what the Pentagon says is the largest leak of classified information in U.S. military history. 

Army judge, Col. Denise Lind handed down her ruling during Manning's sentencing hearing at Ft. Meade, Md. on Wednesday, according to news reports. 

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Manning was spared life in prison in July, when Lind acquitted the 25-year-old ex-Army analyst of providing aid to the enemy by leaking highly sensitive and classified information to the website WikiLeaks. 

Army prosecutors argued that, by making that information public, Manning essentially hand-delivered U.S. state secrets to American adversaries like al Qaeda, the Taliban and other global terrorist organizations. 

But Lind did find Manning guilty on five counts of espionage and five federal counts of theft, as well as various lesser charges. He had already pleaded guilty to 10 other offenses prior to the July verdict. 

The convictions carried a maximum sentence of 136 years in federal prison.

Reports say that Manning will be eligible for parole after serving one third of the full sentence. With four years time served, he could be up for parole in as soon as 10 years.

Before Wednesday's sentencing, Manning publicly apologized for his actions, saying he never intended to harm American forces or U.S. national security. 

"I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States. At the time of the decision, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing," Manning said during a presentencing hearing earlier this month. 

He said his disclosures to the website were meant to "to help people, not hurt people," but acknowledged the decision was wrong. 

Weeks before Lind's decision on Wednesday, she decided to consolidate the charges rather than sentence Manning on each individual crime. 

That move reduced the prison time Manning was facing from 136 years to 90, before Lind eventually decided to sentence Manning to 35 years in military prison. 

The information that Manning leaked included classified State Department cables between Washington and various diplomatic outposts.

Manning also sent classified video of U.S. air strikes in Iraq where civilians were injured or killed.

He provided a video that showed American attack helicopters firing on foreign journalists in Iraq when a news crew was mistaken for a group of insurgents.

Manning supporters claim his actions shed much-needed light on flawed American diplomatic, military and intelligence operations.

Civil rights activists claim Manning had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment since being taken into custody in 2010 and is being unfairly persecuted by the Obama administration for disclosing the information.

"This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate," Ben Wizner, director of the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement Wednesday. 

"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 ...  democratic accountability," he added.