Only one day after serial guilty convictions were read against former US army analyst Bradley Manning for passing secrets to WikiLeaks, both sides were plunged directly into the sentencing phase of the trial with the defence determined to keep him from spending most of the rest of life in confinement.
While Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge of “aiding the enemy” by Judge Denise Lind on Tuesday, he was convicted of 20 others including six related to espionage. Judge Lind could sentence him to 136 years in prison.
The sentencing phase may last weeks, with the prosecution already promising to call 20 witnesses. It is only now that the two sides will be permitted to address both the harm that Manning’s actions caused and what motives lay behind them. The weighing of motivation will give the defence the first opportunity to delve into the more human side of the young man.
It is in that context that some experts expect the defence to put Manning on the stand to testify on his own behalf. That could mean some very personal testimony from the 25-year-old, who was raised in Wales and the US, on his own struggles with gender identity, including his past interest in developing a female alter ego.
“We’re not celebrating,” the lead defence lawyer, David Coombs. “Ultimately, his sentence is all that really matters.” In a first effort to have the final sentence reduced, he asked Judge Lind to merge four of the guilty convictions into just two.
There are no minimum sentences binding Judge Lind, who could also show some consideration for Manning by agreeing that whatever sentences she delivers for each of the convictions be served by him concurrently rather consecutively. The permission to raise the issue of harm is, by contrast, a potential open door for the prosecution. Many of its expert witnesses will testify as to the alleged damage done to US relations, to national security and the extent to which the leaks opened clandestine operatives overseas to exposure or risk.
Final punishment will hinge partly on how damage done stacks up against motive. “You’re balancing that to determine what would be an appropriate sentence. I think it’s likely that he’s going to be in jail for a very long time,” said Lisa Windsor, a retired army colonel and former judge advocate.
Manning’s struggle with gender was revealed in online chats with Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker in California who was his cyberconfidant before he turned him in. On one occasion, Manning told Lamo: “I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me plastered all over the world press as a boy.”
Putin thanked for keeping Edward Snowden safe
The father of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden told Russian television that he is grateful to President Vladimir Putin and his government for protecting his son.
Speaking to the state-owned Rossiya 24 channel in footage broadcast today, Lon Snowden of Allentown, Pennsylvania, thanked the Kremlin for the “courage” shown in keeping his son safe.
Mr Snowden also directed a message to his son. He said: “Your family is well and we love you. I hope to see you soon, but most of all I want you to be safe.”
Edward has been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23. Snowden, who revealed details of a US intelligence program to monitor Internet activity, has received offers of asylum from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.