Center for Constitutional Rights, ACLU condemn Manning’s sentence

Earlier today a military judged sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison, the longest sentence for a public leak of government information in U.S. history. Manning, who provided nearly a quarter-million files to Wikileaks, will be eligible for parole in eight years. The prosecution sought a considerably longer 60-year sentence, but, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Manning never should have been prosecuted at all. The non-profit released the following statement today:

We are outraged that a whistleblower and a patriot has been sentenced on a conviction under the Espionage Act. The government has stretched this archaic and discredited law to send an unmistakable warning to potential whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish their information. We can only hope that Manning’s courage will continue to inspire others who witness state crimes to speak up.

This show trial was a frontal assault on the First Amendment, from the way the prosecution twisted Manning’s actions to blur the distinction between whistleblowing and spying to the government’s tireless efforts to obstruct media coverage of the proceedings. It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes he exposed are not even investigated.  Every aspect of this case sets a dangerous precedent for future prosecutions of whistleblowers – who play an essential role in democratic government by telling us the truth about government wrongdoing – and we fear for the future of our country in the wake of this case.

We must channel our outrage and continue building political pressure for Manning’s freedom. President Obama should pardon Bradley Manning, and if he refuses, a presidential pardon must be an election issue in 2016.
The American Civil Liberties Union also spoke out against the sentence:

When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system. 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. 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.

The sentence comes after a few days of especially close attention to Manning’s gender identity and its relevance — if any — to his service, his defense, and his time in prison. We’ll have more for you as further statements are released.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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Join the Conversation

  • Stephen Brannon

    Bradley Manning’s history shows a bitter man who hated his time in service. He tried to get out from boot camp. While whether or not he should have been allowed to exit the military before his contract is up is a matter of debate, what is not is the fact that he exploited whatever information he could get a hold of to hurt his own military comrades. He disobeyed laws under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He committed treason. For all he knew he could of blown the cover on special forces personnel. Bradley Manning is not a hero. Deciding you want to hurt the people you work with because you don’t like your job does not make you a righteous person. By the way he could have done what he did legally by filing a Freedom of Information Act. But he did not. That is the same if parking in my neighborhood is bad and I want to park in a no parking zone I have to call the police station and get permission. If I don’t and get a ticket would I have the support Bradley Manning does from the ACLU.

  • Erin

    Chelsea Manning is a traitor, plain and simple. Further, while the U.S. media loves to trot out the prosecution’s failure to prove that her actions caused the deaths of U.S. servicemembers, her actions DID cause deaths. Frankly, the materials Manning leaked were not that earth-shattering in the form of information, it was at the secret level. What Manning did was burn sources…people that risked their lives to assist by providing information. How we get information is classified just as much as the actual information itself. Manning deliberately released this info to be accessed by anyone and effectively signed the death warrants of many sources. But this is never mentioned. This was a flippant, immature, and deadly action taken by a pathetic person. Manning’s character is subpar, and that has nothing to do with her gender identity struggles, right?

    I have no sympathy for Manning, she is not a whistleblower or a patriot, she is selfish and responsible for exposing people and their families to dangerous retaliation.