The United States military last week convicted former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who now goes by Chelsea, of espionage, theft and fraud. The 20 charges amounted to 35 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 10 served.
Some argue the sentence was not harsh enough, and won’t deter those thinking about leaking national secrets. Some have called it an injustice, a ruling that curbs press freedom and establishes a dangerous precedent for whistleblowers.
But amid all the analysis, it was Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, who made perhaps the most salient criticism of the Manning conviction.
“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,” Wizner told the Washington Post.
The US military justice system has a mixed record when it comes to punishing its own, and in lieu of this watershed case, one that could have repercussions for decades to come, here’s a look at what Wizner meant when he said it was a “sad day for all Americans.”
1) Col. Thomas M. Pappas: fined $8,000
Pappas, commander of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib prison, was convicted for dereliction of duty. He was present the night Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi was killed in custody. Capt. Donald J. Reese, commander of the 372nd Military Police Company, testified that he heard Pappas say, “I’m not going down for this alone.”
2) Specialist Harman: 6 months; Sgt. Graner: 6.5 years
In late 2004 pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq showed US military personnel committing human rights violations against detainees. Prisoners were beaten, tortured, forced to masturbate and live in disgusting, inhumane conditions.
Specialist Sabrina Harman got six months for conspiracy to mistreat prisoners, dereliction of duty and maltreatment. Sgt. Charles Graner served about 6 and 1/2 years of a 10-year sentence for assault, maltreatment of prisoners, indecent acts, dereliction of duty and conspiracy.
3) Pfc. Lynndie England: 1.5 years
Pfc. Lynndie England served 521 days for her crimes at Abu Ghraib prison, including conspiracy, maltreating detainees and committing an indecent act. England blatantly dehumanized and terrorized inmates. In the pictures she appears to have enjoyed it.
In total, 11 soldiers were sentenced for their crimes at Abu Ghraib prison, including, Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, who served less than half of an 8-year sentence.
4) No prosecution for deaths of Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi
The CIA interrogator of Manadel al-Jamadi, the dead prisoner in the above photo, who was suspected of a bomb attack that killed 12 people at a Baghdad Red Cross facility, was never charged with a crime. In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder said there would be no prosecutions for the deaths of al-Jamadi and another prisoner, Gul Rahman, who died while chained to a concrete wall in near-freezing temperatures in a secret CIA prison in northern Kabul.
5) Sgt. Michael Leahy: 20 years
In 2007, a group of US soldiers executed four handcuffed and blindfolded Iraqi detainees and dumped their bodies in a canal. Sgt. Leahy was sentenced to life in prison for premeditated murder, but he later got a reduced sentence of 20 years, with the possibility of parole after seven.
Spc. Steven Ribordy and Spec. Belmor Ramos both plead guilty to being accessories to murder, and both spent less than a year in jail.
6) Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterish: No jail time
Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterish (right) received no prison time in the killing of 24 unarmed people, including women and children, in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005. Eight Marines were charged, but only Wuterish was convicted on the minor charge of negligent dereliction of duty for ordering his soldiers to raid Iraqi homes. He gave the order: “shoot first, ask questions later.” He said he feared there may be insurgents inside.
7) Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins: 5.5 years
Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins served about half of an 11-year sentence after he was found guilty of unpremeditated murder, larceny and other crimes. Hutchins had in April 2006 led an eight-man unit to kidnap and kill Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania, Iraq.
The seven other squad members involved all served less than 18 months, according to the Associated Press.
Hutchins had confessed to the crime, but was later released because his Fifth Amendment rights were violated when he was interrogated without a lawyer.
8) Lt. William Calley: Less than 4 years
For the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam in March 1968, Calley was found guilty of the premeditated murder of 22 civilians. He was released on parole in Nov. 9, 1974.