An Army general has upheld Private Chelsea Manning’s conviction and 35-year prison sentence for giving reams of classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, the Army said Monday.
The approval by Maj. Gen. Jeffery S. Buchanan, commander of the Military District of Washington, clears the way for an automatic appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
Manning’s appellate lawyers, Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward, told supporters Sunday in Washington that they expect to argue that the sentence unreasonable. It is the longest prison term ever given by a U.S. court for leaking government secrets to the media. They said they also expect to argue that Manning’s speedy trial rights were violated, that the Espionage Act was misused and that high-ranking commanders improperly influenced her case.
The 26-year-old Oklahoma native is serving her sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. She was sentenced in August for six Espionage Act violations and 14 other offences for leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents, plus battlefield video, while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
Buchanan, as commander of the jurisdiction in which the trial was held, could have thrown out or reduced the court-martial results. He approved the findings Friday, the Military District of Washington said in a written statement.
Emma Cape, campaign organizer for the Chelsea Manning Support Network, said Buchanan “has ignored the many grave injustices in this case.”
She also called for protests of the Obama administration’s refusal to consider Manning’s request for presidential clemency until after the appeals have played out – a process that could take years.
During Manning’s trial last summer at Fort Meade, Maryland, military prosecutors called her an anarchist hacker and traitor who indiscriminately leaked information she had sworn to protect, knowing it would be seen by al-Qaida. It was among the largest leaks of classified information in U.S. history.
Manning supporters call her a whistleblower who exposed U.S. war crimes and diplomatic hypocrisy. Manning has said she hoped the leaks would spark debate about the role of the military and U.S. foreign policy in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, was convicted in July of 20 crimes but acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, which carried a life sentence. After sentencing, Manning declared a desire to live as a woman named Chelsea, having been diagnosed with gender dysphoria by two military mental-health experts.
Cape said Manning has filed a grievance with the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks commander at Fort Leavenworth over the lack of a response to her request for comprehensive treatment for her gender identity disorder, including specialized gender counselling and hormone replacement therapy.
The military has said it doesn’t provide hormone replacement therapy. Gender dysphoria generally disqualifies one for military service, but Manning can’t be discharged while serving her sentence.
Manning’s petition for a formal name change is scheduled for a hearing April 23 in Leavenworth County District Court.