Above Photo: Chelsea Manning has already served considerably more time behind bars than any other official leaker in recent US history. Photograph: AP
Former US soldier serving 35 years in prison for leaking state secrets asks Barack Obama to commute her sentence to time served
Chelsea Manning has made a last-ditch appeal to Barack Obama to commute her sentence for leaking state secrets to time served, calling on him to release her from military prison so that she can have her “first chance to live a real, meaningful life”.
With the clock running down on the current presidency, the US soldier is making her last, and what her supporters hope will be the most promising, stab at persuading Obama to set her free after more than six years in custody. Their assumption is that the prospects of incoming president Donald Trump showing her leniency rank as slim, to none.
Manning has already served considerably more time behind bars than any other official leaker in recent US history. In a letter that accompanies the petition, her lawyers, Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward, liken the soldier’s plight to the many other criminal offenders that have already been given a second chance by Obama through his clemency powers.
The lawyers remind the sitting president that Manning carried out her massive leak of state secrets in 2010, that included hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables and warlogs from Afghanistan and Iraq, at a time when she was under huge psychological stress as a result of being a transgender woman. They also emphasise the prisoner’s harsh treatment when she was first brought from Iraq to the US including a prolonged spell in solitary confinement – an issue that Obama has embraced in recent moves to restrict the use of solitary in federal penal institutions.
“Since Ms Manning’s arrest she has been subjected to torturous conditions while in military confinement. For nearly a year Ms Manning was held in solitary confinement while awaiting trial, and since her conviction, has been placed in solitary confinement for an attempted suicide,” they write.
The new petition, which was first reported by the New York Times, comes on top of a previous clemency request and an ongoing appeal against her 35-year military sentence. In supporting material, Daniel Ellsberg, the source of the legendary Pentagon Papers that revealed secrets about the Vietnam war, tells Obama: “It is my firm belief that Ms Manning disclosed this material for the purpose of informing the American people of serious human rights abuses, including the killing of innocent people by the United States troops in Iraq.”