(Photo: United States Army/File)
Bradley Manning, the former U.S. Army private found guilty of espionage and other charges in the 2010 WikiLeaks scandal, announced Thursday that he now identifies as a woman, and will begin hormone therapy so that he can fully become a transgender female.
"I am Chelsea Manning. I am female," Manning said in a statement read by his attorney on NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning. "Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition."
"I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun [except in official mail to the confinement facility]," Manning added in his statement, which has also been posted on the NBC website. "I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back." Manning signed the letter "Chelsea Manning."
The former U.S. Army private was found guilty in a military court in Fort Mead, Md. for 20 charges relating to violations of the Espionage Act, as well as theft and other transgressions for leaking confidential U.S. documents in the 2010 WikiLeaks website scandal. While working in Iraq, Manning leaked over 700,000 U.S. documents relating to airstrikes and U.S. diplomatic cables; his leaks were then posted on the Internet.
Manning could have received a maximum of 90 years for his involvement with WikiLeaks, but was ultimately sentenced to 35 years in military prison, likely Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, the only military prison dealing with sentences exceeding 10 years.
During his trial, Manning's defense painted him as a whistleblower with a strong moral compass who opposed the Iraq War and sought an idealistic end to the situation by posting confidential files. The prosecution argued that Manning was a traitor to the U.S. and put the country in a compromised position by leaking the documents. The prosecution initially pushed for 60 years imprisonment for Manning, arguing that a strong sentence would serve as a deterrent for future service members.
Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, reportedly told Savannah Guthrie on "Today" that his client waited until after the trial to announce his new sexuality because he did not want it to "overshadow" the court proceedings. Coombs also said that he is willing to fight for hormone replacement therapy options for Manning during his time at Fort Leavenworth.
"I'm hoping that Fort Leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that. If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that they are forced to do so," Coombs said. Fort Leavenworth reportedly said that it does not provide hormone replacement therapy, but it does provide psychiatry.
Manning's defense team argued during his trial that his struggle with gender identity could have played a role in his decision to leak classified documents, although they asserted that the main reason he revealed the confidential information was because he felt he had a moral obligation to do so.
Manning will have the option of parole in seven years, and may be given additional credit for good behavior, meaning he could be released as early as eight years.