The civilian defense attorney for Pvt. Bradley Manning, who now goes by Chelsea Manning, has filed an application for a presidential pardon or commutation of Manning’s sentence.
The filing contains a letter written by her attorney, David Coombs, and a letter by Manning, which was made public during a press conference hours after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on August 21.
Manning was convicted by military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, of committing multiple violations of the Espionage Act, embezzling government property and causing intelligence to be wantonly published on the internet. The conviction stemmed from the decision Manning made to provide copies of the “Collateral Murder” video, Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs, a cache of US State Embassy cables, the “Gitmo Files,” and other government documents to WikiLeaks.
Coombs urges Obama to “take a positive step towards protecting whistleblowers who release information to the media for the public good by either reducing Private Manning’s sentence to time served, or by granting him a full pardon.” He suggests Manning has “already paid a heavy price for his conduct,” including being held for over three years in military confinement and spending a portion in ‘unlawful solitary confinement at Marine Corps Base Quantico.'” Manning also faced a “three-year protracted legal process” along with a “meritless aiding the enemy offense.”
“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,” Coombs argues. “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.”
Compared to other cases where soldiers or officers were convicted of one or two counts related to sharing secrets, typically soldiers accused of acts of espionage were not overcharged or did not face the multiplication of charges from their acts like Manning did. The convicted act of espionage did carry a maximum punishment of at least twenty to thirty years, if not more, but there often was no charge of stealing the information in addition to the espionage-related charges. [For more context based off prior military cases, go here.]
“Although the government is entitled to protect sensitive information, the documents in this case did not merit protection,” Coombs declares. “Many of the documents released by Private Manning were either unclassified or contained information that the public had a right to know. None of the disclosed documents caused any real damage to the United States. Instead, these documents simply embarrassed our country by revealing misconduct by the Department of Defense and unethical practices by the Department of State.” [cont’d.]