Former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified material, has been put on President Barack Obama’s short list for a possible commutation.
“I have more hope right now than I have the entire time since she was sentenced,” Manning’s aunt, Deborah Manning, told NBC News. “I do think it’s the last hope for a while.”
As previously reported on The Root, Manning, who attempted suicide in July of last year and later went on a hunger strike in September, was arrested in 2010, convicted in 2013 and given a 35-year sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas for blowing the whistle on vast human rights violations orchestrated by the U.S. government and carried out by the U.S. military.
While working as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, downloaded and shared with WikiLeaks 500,000 Army reports that would later make up the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary, 250,00 American diplomatic cables, as well as videos of the 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike.
As NBC News notes, prosecutors branded Manning a “traitor” who was seeking notoriety in the world of hackers and anarchists, while her attorneys painted their client as a naive whistleblower who did little more than cause embarrassment.
Manning pleaded guilty, and before her sentencing she apologized to the court and the nation.
“I’m sorry,” Manning said. “I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States.”
“I understand that I must pay the price for my decisions and actions,” Manning added.
As NBC News reports, the judge was not moved by Manning’s apology and delivered a sentence that was about 10 times longer than those of recent whistleblowers.
“After this case, I had to tell Chelsea: ‘I’ve represented murderers. I’ve represented rapists. I’ve represented child molesters. And none of them received 35 years,’” defense lawyer David Coombs told NBC News.
Manning’s supporters, including her aunt, believe the harshness of the sentence is tied to the scandal surrounding former National Security Agency contractor and fellow leaker Edward Snowden.
“I really believe the judge felt she needed to send some sort of message,” Deborah Manning said. “I think in a way she was a scapegoat for Edward Snowden.”
Snowden himself tweeted a plea to President Barack Obama on Wednesday morning in support of Manning.
Manning’s aunt told NBC that she hoped President Obama would consider the former soldier’s troubled upbringing, struggles with gender identity and remorse.
“I would say this is someone who’s never had a chance in life, who is extremely bright, who became extremely emotionally distressed at some point, who made a bad decision, who paid for that bad decision,” Deborah Manning said. “And it’s time to let her go out and try to make a positive contribution in the world.”
Read more at NBC News.