Originally published at La Opini??n. Republished by permission.
The 35-year sentence for Pfc. Bradley Manning is a rebuke to the U.S. government's attempt to make an example of the soldier who leaked almost three-quarters of a million documents to WikiLeaks.
The sentence is not minor. However, it is much shorter than what the prosecution requested: life without parole plus 100 years or even the possibility of capital punishment if it were proven--as the prosecutors claimed--that Manning aided the enemy, al-Qaida, with leaks to the press.
In the end, the sentence issued by Judge Denise Lind was only 10 years longer than the plea offer made by Manning, who apologized and said he didn't fully "appreciate the broader effects" of his actions. She saw a young man who was disappointed by his government's actions, mainly in Iraq. But in practice, the sentence she gave him means that he could eventually be eligible for parole.
Without a doubt, Manning committed a crime by releasing secret documents that hurt America's image. But that is what happens when a government employee, a whistle blower publicly denounces irregularities within the government. There are laws to protect these employees, although it is more complicated for the military. What is known so far is that no lives have been lost as a result of this leak.
Manning's case is a matter of conscience, idealism and responsibility. The punishment is necessary. However, the way Manning was mistreated by the military, being placed in solitary confinement and held naked, is totally reprehensible.
Both Manning and Edward Snowden committed crimes by breaking the confidentiality of a government job, and their actions have geopolitical impact. But at the end of the day, we cannot ignore that they both publicized information that people have a right to know about their government's activities.