Before being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bradley Manning told a military judge he was “sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that it hurt the United States.” The 750,000 leaked documents revealed all kinds of secret information, from thousands of battlefield reports to a video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter firing on civilians in Baghdad.
The publication of the leaked documents by Wikileaks in 2010 sparked public outrage. Some of the documents contained hundreds of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables that were critical of some key U.S. allies. Other leaked reports from the battlefields included the names of Iraqis and Afghans who had been working with U.S. troops, making them, and their families, targets for revenge.
But since the leak, it’s still unclear just how much Manning’s actions have negatively impacted U.S. national security. Though Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, the government sought to lock him away for 90 years. With good behavior, the 25-year-old could be out on parole in just eight or nine years. (On Thursday, Manning said in a statement to NBC’s Today show that going forward, he wished to be identified as a female, and had taken the name Chelsea Manning.)
Other recent incidents provide some perspective on Manning’s actions. In connection with the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, Army prison guards Lynndie England and Charles Graner each were sentenced to 10 years in prison. England served three years; Graner was released after six and a half. But the torture and abuse that took place inside the prison -- and the shocking photos that were seen around the world -- did immeasurable damage to the United States and the military. (end of excerpt)
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