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Chelsea Manning, Whose Leaks Helped Expose Military Criminality, Asks Obama to Reduce Her Sentence

"I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression," Manning writes in her petition to President Obama. (Photo:  torbakhopper/flickr/cc)

U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has formally petitioned President Barack Obama to reduce her sentence to the six years she's already served.

The 28-year-old transgender woman was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years for releasing a trove of government and military documents to WikiLeaks. Through those leaks, the Center for Constitutional Rights has argued, she "helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan."

In the Nov. 10 petition, which was obtained by the New York Times, she states that she takes "full and complete responsibility" for the disclosures she made "out of concern for my country, the innocent civilians whose lives were lost as a result of war, and in support of two values that our country holds dear—transparency and public accountability."

Her experiences in solitary confinement, both before formal charges were brought and a following a suicide attempt, "have broken me and made me feel less than human," she states.

She also describes being the target of homophobic insults during her youth and time in the Army. "I wish I had received a a fair shot at a better life," she writes.

While the military is now allowing some treatment for her gender dysphoria, Manning is still forced to keep her hair at a male standard, which she calls "a never-ending nightmare."

"I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression," she writes.

She is not requesting a pardon, she adds, as she "understands 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 application includes letters of support from Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg; former military commissions chief prosecutor Morris Davis, who resigned after being placed under command of a torture advocate; and Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer, journalist, and co-founder of The Intercept.

Ellsberg writes that Manning released the documents "for the purpose of informing the American people of serious human rights abuses, including the killing of innocent people by United States troops in Iraq." Greenwald, for his part, writes, "It is not an exaggeration to say that Chelsea is a hero to, and has inspired, all kinds of people all over the world."

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