Private Manning files request for Presidential pardon


Private Chelsea [Bradley] Manning formally filed a request on Sept. 3rd asking President Barack Obama to pardon or commute his sentence to time served.

The 25-year-old former Army intelligence analyst was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified U.S. government records to WikiLeaks.

Read more: Court Martial of Army Private First Class Bradley Manning

“The length of Private Manning’s sentence is one that we would expect for someone who disclosed information in order to harm the United States or who disclosed information for monetary gain. Private Manning did neither. Instead, he disclosed information that he believed could spark a meaningful public debate on the costs of war, and specifically on how we value human life,” wrote David Coombs, Manning’s civilian defense attorney.

The records Manning released to WikiLeaks include the infamous Apache “collateral murder” depicting the killings of two Reuters staffers in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of “significant activities” reports [SIGACTs] filed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 250,000 secret State Department diplomatic cables, and hundreds of Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs.

Read more: Manning’s ‘harsh’ sentence sends chilling message to whistleblowers, journalists 

“Private Manning is a military whistleblower. He disclosed documents that were vital for a healthy public debate about our conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan, our detention policies at Guantanamo, and our diplomatic activities around the world,” wrote Coombs. “The sentence given to him by the military judge grossly exaggerates the seriousness of his conduct…It will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on future whistleblowers and damage the public’s perception of military justice.”

Included in the petition is a letter of support from Amnesty International, which raised concerns about Manning’s pre-trial detention treatment in Iraq and at Quantico. Amnesty pointed out that Manning was held in solitary confinement for 11 months in “conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture as cruel and inhumane”.

Amnesty also pointed out that many high-level U.S. officials have eluded justice for “grave human rights violations committed during the United States’ ‘War on Terror'” – some of which were revealed by documents Manning disclosed – while Manning may spend most of his life in prison for providing information on U.S. abuses to WikiLeaks.

Furthermore, Amnesty noted that Manning was prohibited by Judge Col. Denise Lind from presenting a “public interest” defense during the court martial.

“We believe there are factors which, taken together, present strong human rights grounds for mitigating Bradley Manning’s sentence,” wrote Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty’s Director of Research and Crisis Response. “Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pre-trial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial. Amnesty International respectfully requests that you commute his sentence to the time he has already served in prison.”

An online petition launched by Amnesty International and the Private Manning Support Network has garnered just shy of 25,000 signatures as of today. They will need 100,000 signatures by Sept. 20th to qualify for a formal response from the White House.

In addition to the request for presidential pardon, Manning will appeal his conviction and sentencing to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, likely at the end of 2014.


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