Sentencing beginning for Bradley Manning

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July 31, 2013, 6:26 am
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(NECN/NBC News: Tracie Potts) - Sentencing begins Wednesday for Private Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted on multiple counts of releasing top secret information that landed in the hands of al-Qaeda.

Manning was convicted of sharing hundreds of thousands of records from a top-secret government database. But the judge stopped short of throwing the book at him, based on intent.

Manning supporters gathered in front of the White House after hearing he'd been convicted.

Tuesday's sentencing follows what Manning's defense called a huge victory.

Manning was found guilty on 20 counts, including espionage, but not guilty of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy.

Manning gave the website WikiLeaks battle plans, diplomatic cables and video of an apache helicopter that killed innocent civilians in Baghdad.

He faces up to 136 years in prison.

Military Law Expert Eugene Fidell said, "The government is very, very serious about protecting the status of classified information and people who, people who disseminate it are playing with fire."

The judge found Manning negligent but said he didn't intend for those secrets to land in the hands of Osama Bin Laden, which they did.

Still, experts and supporters say the espionage convictions are unprecendented.

Elizabeth Goiten of the Brennan Center for Justice said, "Historically espionage act charges have been brought against spies and against traitors and not against people who leaked information to the media with no ill intent."

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange said, "It is a serious precedent, it is a serious abuse, and it will mean the end of national security journalism in the United States as we know it."

The White House and State Department had no comment.

In a statement, the top Democrat and Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said justice was served.

Experts think it's unlikely Manning will get the full sentence. That process could take weeks.

Tags: army, conviction, Wikileaks, sentencing, leak, secret, information, Private Bradley Manning
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