Chelsea Manning, who is more than six years into a 35-year sentence for leaking classified government and military documents to the WikiLeaks website, is asking President Barack Obama to commute her sentence to time served.
In a commutation application released by her attorneys, the transgender soldier said there was no historical precedent for such an extreme sentence for the leak of secret documents.
Manning was arrested in 2010 and convicted in 2013 in military court of six Espionage Act violations and 14 other offenses for leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents, plus some battlefield video to WikiLeaks. At that point she was known as Private First Class Bradley Manning.
She is in custody at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Manning, who was an intelligence analyst in Iraq, acknowledged leaking the documents but said it was intended to raise public awareness about the impact of war on innocent civilians.
She later filed a transgender prisoner rights lawsuit and has tried to commit suicide multiple times citing her treatment behind bars.
“I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss and depression,” she wrote in her application, dated Nov. 8. “I cannot focus. I cannot sleep.”
Retired Air Force Col. Morris D. Davis, a 25-year veteran who was chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay for two years, said much of the information Manning leaked had little value and could be found through open sources on the internet.
Davis, who now serves as an administrative law judge for the U.S. Labor Department, wrote a letter attached to Manning’s application that called the 35-year sentence far too harsh for releasing documents whose impact six years later “could fairly be described as inconvenience and embarrassment.”
ACLU attorney Chase Strangio said his hope is that Obama commutes the sentence and cements his legacy as a president who stood up for society’s most vulnerable people.
“She has lived under incredibly harsh conditions the last six years and spent more time in prison than anyone in U.S. history for giving information to the public,” Strangio said. “I’m worried she won’t survive much longer in these conditions.