Former soldier Bradley Manning is on President Barack Obama’s shortlist for commutation of the 35-year sentence that Manning got for leaking a huge database of wartime secrets, according to NBC News.
NBC News’ report comes after more than 100,000 people signed an online petition to Obama that cited a claimed need for better medical care to justify commutation of Manning’s sentence and met the threshold for a White House response within 60 days.
Manning says he wants to live as a woman, and reportedly suffers from a disorder known as “gender dysphoria,” a condition where some transgender people experience severe distress or anxiety. Under Obama’s pro-transgender rules, Manning is receiving expensive medical treatment at Fort Leavenworth military prison at the U.S. taxpayer’s expense.
“A decision could come as soon as Wednesday for Manning, who has tried to commit suicide twice this year and went on a hunger strike in a bid for gender reassignment surgery,” reports NBC News, referring to the commutation decision.
The Army leaker is currently receiving hormone therapy at the Leavenworth military prison and has been permitted to wear female undergarments.
However, a military doctor has refused to change Manning’s gender on official Army records.
While prosecutors have designated Manning a traitor, defense lawyers have described Manning as a naive whistle-blower who caused minimal harm.
Echoing supporters, four anonymous former and current Army intelligence officers described Manning’s sentence as harsh and excessive to NBC News, noting that the 700,000 military files and diplomatic cables the leaker stole and provided to Wikileaks pales in comparison to the highly classified top secret documents stolen by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
Snowden is living in Russia to avoid prosecution for espionage.
Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy, told Reuters that “the bulk of the damage [from Manning’s betrayal] is subtle rather than catastrophic… But it is nonetheless real.”
“Because of the broad scope and overwhelming volume of the WikiLeaks cables, their disclosure cast doubt on the ability of the U.S. government to guarantee confidentiality of any kind—whether in diplomacy, military operations or intelligence. That’s not a small thing,” Aftergood told Reuters.
According to NBC News, Manning’s 35-year prison sentence is “10 times longer than those of recent whistle-blowers.”
Manning has been incarcerated since 2010.
Prior to sentencing, Manning delivered a recorded apology to the court and the nation that has been obtained by NBC News and broadcasted for the first time. “I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States,” Manning declared, adding, “I understand that I must pay the price for my decisions and actions.”
Besides the people who signed the online petition to Obama, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and pro-gay organizations have also been advocating for a pardon.
Snowden, who has requested clemency from Obama, expressed support for the commutation of Manning’s sentence on Twitter.
Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency as you exit the White House, please: free Chelsea Manning. You alone can save her life.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 11, 2017