Chelsea Manning has served just over six years of a 35-year sentence for leaking classified documents pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks and has written to President Obama asking for her sentence to be commuted to time served.
Manning takes “full and complete responsibility” for her actions in the letter, a copy of which her lawyer provided to The New York Times. She calls them “wrong” and points out that she was suffering from gender dysphoria while deployed to Iraq, which was when she decided to leak the documents, which included incident logs, dossiers about Guantanamo detainees and a video showing a United States helicopter strike in Baghdad that included two journalists from Reuters among those killed.
She has twice tried to take her own life while in military custody, most recently in October. Her attorneys blamed the conditions under which she was being held, including the solitary confinement she received as punishment after a previous suicide attempt in July, as contributing factors in her fragile mental state.
“I am not asking for a pardon of my conviction,” Manning writes in the letter to Obama. “I understand that the various collateral consequences of the court-martial conviction will stay on my record forever. The sole relief I am asking for is to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members.”
The petition was accompanied by letters of support from Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, former military commissions chief prosecutor Morris Davis and journalist and legal commentator Glenn Greenwald.
“I believe now, in the six and a half weeks we have remaining, we all have to ask President Obama to do with his powers good things before he leaves, before a new president comes in, and I really believe that he should commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence to time served,” Ellsberg said in an interview.
Manning had petitioned for a full pardon three years ago, shortly after she was convicted and announced she was transgender, but wrote in her letter that she now understood that request to have been premature and asking for too much.