Bradley Manning, who has been sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified documents, announced Thursday that he intends to begin hormone treatments so he can live the rest of his life as a woman named Chelsea.
The news revealed by the army private in an exclusive statement to NBC's "Today"
program, came as his lawyers also announced their intention to petition President Barack Obama for a presidential pardon.
"I am Chelsea Manning," the army private convicted of espionage said his statement Thursday morning. “Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.”
To his supporters, Manning also requested that "starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back," his statement said.
It was signed, "Chelsea E. Manning."
A military court sentenced the 25-year-old soldier on Wednesday to 35 years following his conviction on 20 charges ranging from theft to espionage. He was accused of turning over more than 700,000 classified documents to the WikiLeaks website while he was stationed in Iraq in 2010.
Shortly after his sentencing, Manning issued a personal statement to President Obama as part of his planned presidential pardon request. His attorneys had suggested during his trial that his struggles with gender identity, and as a homosexual in the military, played a part in his decision to leak the stolen documents to WikiLeaks.
They presented as evidence an April 2010 e-mail from a former supervisor, which claimed that Manning joined the Army to "get rid" of his transgender status. The email was titled "My Problem" and included a photo of Manning in a blonde wig and lipstick.
In addition, during Manning's nine months in the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va., he sent letters to his counselor signed, "Breanna."
However, his lawyer, David Coombs, told Today's Savannah Guthrie that Manning's transgender status was used in court to describe the stress that he was under, and was "never an excuse [for his decision to leak classified documents] because that's not what drove his actions. What drove his actions was a strong moral compass."
After Manning's sentencing on Wednesday, Coombs said his defense team planned to seek a presidential pardon for the soldier, who also received a dishonorable discharge from the military as part of his sentencing.
"The time for the president to protect whistleblowers rather than punishing them is now," Coombs said, according to Politico
. "The time for the president to pardon Pfc. Manning is now."
Manning, in a lengthy personal statement to Obama that was released by his attorneys, said he gave the documents to WikiLeaks because of his "concern for my country and the world that we live in."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that if Manning does indeed seek an official pardon, it will be considered just like any other application for clemency.
But records indicate that Manning could face an uphill battle, given the fact that Obama has granted clemency less often than his past four predecessors.
However, a number of advocacy groups, including Amnesty International, plan to press the president as well on Manning behalf.
“Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pretrial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial,” said Widney Brown, senior international law director for Amnesty International.
While Manning is facing 36 years in prison, he will be credited with the more than three years he's already served in military custody. He is also eligible to appear before a clemency board in three years and is up for parole in seven years.
The initial charges against Manning could have resulted in a sentence of 90 years.
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