But in her “special findings” related to Manning’s conviction, Lind also wrote: “At the time of the charged offense, Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were enemies of the United States. Pfc. Manning knew that Al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States.”
Apparently mitigating what could have been a harsher sentence was testimony during the trial from officers and senior enlisted personnel who had worked with Manning, witnessing his sometimes strange and violent behavior that in retrospect should have prevented his access to classified information. Army psychiatrists told of Manning’s “sexual identity disorder,” observed at a time when official US policy was “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Fifteen individuals, including commissioned and noncommissioned officers, have been disciplined for failures related to Manning’s actions. The Army major who commanded the intelligence wing of Manning's brigade combat team was formally reprimanded, the company commander was replaced, and Manning’s immediate supervisor was reduced in rank – likely career-ending punishments.
Civil libertarians, freedom of information advocates, and opponents of US military policy were quick to respond.
"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,” Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, said in a statement. “This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate."
The whistleblower organization Government Accountability Project termed Manning’s sentence “excessive and unjust.”
Manning’s supporters, who see him as a hero, have begun an online petition to have him pardoned.y
Amnesty International immediately called on President Obama to commute Manning's sentence.