Chelsea Manning petition gets enough signatures to require Obama response

By Stephen Feller  |  Updated Dec. 12, 2016 at 6:37 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A petition for Chelsea Manning, a former soldier who handed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, to have her 35-year prison sentence commuted to time served reached the number of signatures it requires to draw a response from the White House.

The petition to have President Barack Obama commute Manning's sentence and release her from a military prison six years into her sentence passed the threshold it needs to garner a response. The petition needed 100,000 signatures by Wednesday, and surpassed 107,000 on Sunday.

Manning has served the longest jail time any whistleblower has served in U.S. history for the same conviction.

While the White House has 60 days to respond to the petition, Obama has just over half that many days left in office. So if the administration is going to respond, it will need to do so soon.

"I don't know what to say," Manning tweeted about the petition. "I am just grateful that I am not forgotten. You've given me hope."

In mid-November, Manning wrote to Obama asking that he release her from military prison on time served for copying hundreds of thousands of classified documents while she was an intelligence analyst in Iraq and giving them to Wikileaks.

"I am not asking for a pardon of my conviction," Manning wrote in the letter. "I understand that the various collateral consequences of the court-martial conviction will stay on my record forever. The sole relief I am asking for is to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members."

At the time Manning was convicted, she was still known as Bradley Manning and was placed in a men's prison. After her imprisonment, Manning received treatment for gender dysphoria, including gender reassignment surgery. She says she has endured harsh treatment while in prison, including solitary confinement stemming from two attempts at suicide.

Manning asked Obama to commute her sentence in order to receive complete and proper treatment.

Manning's lawyers and supporters have argued that she has served a far longer prison term for her crimes than previous whistleblowers who, generally, have spent about three years in jail.

The ACLU and more than a dozen other organizations also sent a letter to Obama on Manning's behalf on Dec. 5, asking the president to grant Manning's request because "while the armed forces have finally opened the door to transgender men and women who wish to serve, the government has continually fought Ms. Manning's efforts to be treated with basic dignity."

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