(Photo: United States Army/File)
Former U.S. Army private Bradley Manning is seeking a presidential pardon for his 35-year-prison term after being convicted of espionage and other charges when he leaked classified U.S. documents to the WikiLeaks website in 2010. Manning states in the petition, released Wednesday, that he leaked the documents "out of a love for my country and sense of duty to others," as he questioned the morality of U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, sent the pardon request Tuesday to the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of the Army, arguing that the documents leaked by Manning in 2010 were not all considered to be classified or top secret. Although during the trial, prosecutors against Manning argued that his leaking of classified documents endangered the U.S., Manning's lawyer wrote in the pardon request that none of the leaked documents caused any "real damage to the United States."
Manning, 25, added in the petition that he decided to leak 700,000 U.S. security documents to the website WikiLeaks because he felt that the U.S. had "consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"The decisions I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in," Manning wrote in the Pardon/Commutation of Sentence request. "I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States."
"When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability," Manning added.
Manning's sentence of 35-years at Fort Leavenworth, a military prison located in Kansas, proves to be the longest prison sentence ever issued by the U.S. for leaked documents meant for publication. Prosecutors initially argued for a 60-year sentence against Manning so he may serve as an example to others against espionage, but he ultimately received 35 years.
The White House has previously said that Manning's petition for a presidential pardon would go through the same process as all pardon requests. The process reportedly takes years or longer, and Pentagon officials have explained that many inside the Obama administration doubt Manning will ever be pardoned, as his actions deeply affected president Obama's first term, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Shortly after his sentencing in August, Manning announced that he now identifies as a female, and wished to be referred to by the name "Chelsea." In a statement read on the "Today" show, Manning said he had identified with the female sex since he was a child, and waited until after his trial to announce his sexual identity change so as to not distract from court proceedings.
Manning's lawyer has requested that his client be able to undergo hormone replacement therapy at Fort Leavenworth, but the prison has said it does not offer such options, although it does offer psychiatry. The prison also said Manning will be referred to as a male at the prison and all mail addressed to him must read "Bradley Manning." Additionally, Manning signed his presidential pardon petition with his male name, "Bradley," which is his legal name.