On 21 August, a military judge sentenced the 25-year-old US army private formerly known as Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison, with time served (almost three years) in pre-trial custody counted towards this.
The next day, Bradley Manning publicly asked to be referred to as Chelsea Manning from that point on, and asked people to use the feminine pronoun to refer to her (except in official post to the prison), saying: ‘I am a female’.
The judge in Manning’s trial counted another 112 days as time served as ‘compensation’ for the excessively harsh treatment he acknowledged Manning suffered while imprisoned at the Quantico marine base in 2010-2011.
Manning was also dishonourably discharged, and ordered to forfeit all pay.
Previously, Manning had been found guilty by a military court at Fort Meade army base on all but one of 22 charges she’d been tried on, for having passed more than 700,000 US government secret documents to Wikileaks, which the organisation then published.
The one charge she was acquitted on was that of ‘aiding the enemy’, which carries a possible death sentence, for enabling information that allegedly could have helped a US enemy to be posted on a public (Wikileaks) website.
Manning was found guilty of ‘wrongly and wantonly’ causing to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the US, ‘having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accessible to the enemy’. This would seem to make publishing any secret US intelligence illegal.
Manning was also found guilty of five charges under the 1917 Espionage Act, and of theft, and faced a total maximum sentence on the guilty charges of 90 years.
Some of the abuses Manning revealed were of an extreme kind. They include: the infamous video of an US helicopter attack over Baghdad in which the crew gleefully target a group of civilians; Afghan and Iraq war logs revealing thousands of reports of abuse and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other secret prisons; extraordinary renditions, kidnappings, torture and secret killings.
In a blog, Manning gave a statement of her reasons for whistle-blowing: ‘I prefer a painful truth over any blissful fantasy…. I want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.’
Manning’s action has been celebrated by two prestigious awards, the 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Prize awarded by the International Peace Bureau and the US Peace Memorial Foundation’s 2013 Peace Prize for ‘conspicuous bravery, at the risk of [her] own freedom’.
Chelsea Manning has also been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.