Metro Weekly

LGBT groups ask Obama to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence

Groups ask president to grant clemency to trans woman who leaked more than 700,000 government files

An image of Manning sent in a April 24, 2010, email coming out to her supervisor (Photo: Chelsea Manning, via U.S. Army file).
An image of Manning sent in a April 24, 2010, email coming out to her supervisor (Photo: Chelsea Manning, via U.S. Army file).

The American Civil Liberties Union and over a dozen LGBT groups have sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to commute the sentence of former Pfc. Chelsea Manning, who is currently serving the 7th year of a 35-year sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, stealing government property, violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and disobeying orders multiple times after she released more than 700,000 government files containing sensitive information to the cyber-anarchist government watchdog website Wikileaks. Manning’s release of information is still considered one of the largest leaks in American history. She has tried to appeal her conviction, arguing that she was acting as a “whistleblower” in bringing information on the impact of U.S.-led wars in the Middle East on civilians to the public’s attention.

The LGBT organizations wrote to Obama, asking him to commute Manning’s sentence to time served.

“Our organizations may be of differing opinions concerning Ms. Manning’s actions; however, we stand united in our support for her clemency petition,” the letter reads. “If approved, Ms. Manning will have a first chance to live a real, meaningful life as the person she was born to be.”

In addition to the ACLU, other signatories of the letter are: BiNet USA, COLAGE, the Family Equality Council, FORGE, Inc., GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Immigration Equality, KhushDC, Lambda Legal, League of United Latin American Citizens, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Organization for Women (NOW), Pride at Work, and Transgender Law Center.

The groups note that Manning, who, despite her transgender status, is serving out her sentence in an all-male prison, has frequently been placed in solitary confinement for long stretches of time, including after she attempted suicide. Manning recently went on a hunger strike until the government agreed to allow her to have gender confirmation surgery as part of her treatment for gender dysphoria. They also note that the government has repeatedly attempted to deny Manning treatment for her gender dysphoria, including requests for hormones and to grow her hair out beyond the prescribed length for male prisoners at the USDB.

“The sole relief that Ms. Manning is seeking is to be released from military prison after serving over six years of confinement — longer than any whistleblower in the history of our country. The consequences of her conviction would remain with her, including a punitive discharge, a reduction in rank, and the loss of veteran’s benefits,” the letter continues. “We urge you to consider Ms. Manning’s plea and grant her clemency petition.”

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