‘I need help & I am still not getting it’: Chelsea Manning asks Obama for clemency

© Elijah Nouvelage
Chelsea Manning has spent more time behind bars than any other whistleblower in US history, but her legal team hopes that appealing to President Barack Obama may reduce her 35-year sentence to time served.

Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was the whistleblower behind the leaking of classified material to WikiLeaks that included the “Collateral Murder” video and The War Logs, documents from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, she was charged with espionage and sentenced to 35 years in a military prison. However, her team has formally requested that President Obama commute her sentence to the over six years she’s already served.

A statement from her legal team emphasizes that Manning is not seeking a pardon.

She accepted responsibility at trial by pleading guilty without the benefit of a plea agreement, an unusual act of courage in a case such as hers,” the statement read.

Manning insisted that the request was not meant to whitewash her crimes, but was the result of “the mistreatment I have been subjected to while confined.

In the letter, Manning reiterated her desire to be able to live her life as a woman after being allowed to undergo gender reassignment process.

The personal letter discussed the impetus to join the Army during the surge in Iraq.

When things were looking bleak, I thought, ‘maybe I can help out,’” she wrote.

However, her internal conflict with her birth gender versus the one she identifies with also played into her decision to join the Army back when she was Private Bradley Manning.

I hoped the military would somehow ‘cure’ me, or ‘fix’ me,” she wrote. “Instead, my feelings did not go away. They became much more intense, and much more difficult to act on.

A sticking point for Manning’s legal team is the odd system that military judges follow in courts martial. They operate without sentencing guidelines and have no responsibility to follow precedent set by earlier cases.

In a case like Ms. Manning’s,” her attorneys wrote, “a military judge has no way of knowing what constitutes fair and reasonable punishment.

The punishment Manning has faced goes beyond her sentence. She spent close to a year in solitary confinement before her trial, and since her sentencing, Manning has returned to solitary after attempting suicide. Manning wrote, “These experiences have broken me and made me feel less than human.

Her treatment has resulted in two suicide attempts while incarcerated. She was placed in solitary confinement after her first attempt as a punishment, which resulted in her trying to take her own life a second time, “because the feeling of hopelessness was so immense.”

Cosigning her request for freedom are Air Force officer and lawyer Morris Davis, activist and former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, and The Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald.