A military judge sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison Wednesday for his involvement in the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history.
Army Col. Denise Lind added that Manning, 25, will be dishonorably discharged from the military. He will also be eligible for parole.
Manning provided more than 700,000 military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while working as a low-level intelligence analyst in Baghdad.
After the sentencing, WikiLeaks said in a tweet that Manning's sentence is a "significant strategic victory" because he will be eligible for parole in "less than 9 years."
Manning was convicted in July on 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, five theft counts and computer fraud.
The Bradley Manning trial: A timeline
He was found not guilty on the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, which had carried a possible sentence of life in prison without parole.
Manning's defense argued that the soldier had hoped to spark a broader debate on the role of the U.S. military and to make Americans aware of the nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people," he said in a courtroom statement last week.
The leaked material included video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed two Reuters journalists and dozens of others.
Manning faced up to a 90-year sentence. The prosecution team requested that the judge sentence him to at least 60 years in prison, while the defense asked for no more than 25 years.
A former military prosecutor and professor at South Texas College of Law, Geoffrey Corn, told Al Jazeera that the judge had to consider making an example out of Manning with the sentencing, while "balancing that with fairness and justice."
Jesselyn Radack, whistle-blower attorney and director of national security at the Government Accountability Project, disagrees and believes anything more than the three years Manning served during pretrial confinement is "excessive."
"The government is in the business of sending a message to people who reveal information that it finds embarrassing or, worse, exposes crime. That's a terrible message to be sending," Radack told Al Jazeera.
Asked if potential whistle-blowers will consider Manning's trial and sentencing before they release classified information, Radack believes the case will have the reverse effect.
"People are still coming forward, people are still blowing the whistle," she said. "If anything, Bradley Manning is an inspiration, especially given the very steep price he had to pay."
Manning will be credited for about three and a half years of pretrial confinement, including 112 days for being illegally punished by harsh conditions at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps brig.
Ehab Zahriyeh contributed to this report. Al Jazeera and wire services