This biggest story this week is the Pfc. Bradley Manning’s pending verdict – unless Edward Snowden turns himself in to U.S. authorities or becomes French.
After final arguments last week, the case rests in the hands of the jury, which in this instance is also the military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind.
Since Manning has admitted guilt to several charges all ready in the largest breach of classified files in U.S. history — except the charge of aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence by itself — there’s little chance he’ll avoid prison.
So, the question is: How many years will the 25-year-old get?
Judge Lind wont likely be convinced by defense arguments that Manning furthered the public weal by leaking the military reports and government cables, but she might be equally unmoved by prosecution assertions that their exposure caused the United States great and irrevocable harm.
Embarrassing? Sure. Permanently damaging? Doubtful.
Though in Lind’s legal mind actual damage might be secondary to perceived need to take action as a warning to others. Making Manning an example is arguably more important than any crimes he might have committed.
It hurts Manning indirectly that Snowden is country shopping and out of reach of U.S. authorities.
If you can’t hang the person you want, hang the one you have a little higher.
On the flip side, Lind likely realizes that putting Manning behind bars for the next 50 years is tantamount to shooting a puppy for chewing up an expensive pair of shoes.
How in the world did he get his paws on this stuff to begin with?
While the trial’s denouement will no doubt end badly for Manning, it might not end quite the way the military had hoped.
Is this beady-eyed twerp really worth making a martyr for generations of dewy-eyed liberal arts majors on the left and conspiracy theorists on the right?
With all that said, my over and under for Manning’s sentence is 22.5 years.
By the time he’s released – unless he wins on appeal — Manning will be more worried about his thinning hair and balky prostate than divulging government secrets.
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Rick Rogers is an Army veteran and defense reporter who’s covered military and defense issues for nearly 30 years. Read more of his stuff by clicking here.
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Rick Rogers is a defense reporter based in San Diego.