The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement after Army Private First Class Bradley Manning's sentence was handed down on August 21, saying that the harsh treatment Manning endured since he was accused of violating the Espionage Act sent a disturbing message to anyone thinking about becoming a whistleblower. Manning was sentenced to 35 years of prison for leaking information that revealed that the U.S. military violated the Geneva Convention and that there was a much higher civilian death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan than previously disclosed to the press. Says Joel Simon, executive director of the CPJ:
Military prosecutors who pursued Manning aggressively sought a harsh sentence because of the message it sends to would-be leakers. As an organization dedicated to the defense of journalists and press freedom, we take a different view. This Manning prosecution combined with the Obama administration's overzealous pursuit of leakers sends an unequivocal chilling message to journalists and their sources, particularly on issues of national security that are of vital importance to the public.