There is a glimmer of hope for Chelsea Manning. The imprisoned government whistleblower is on President Obama’s short list for a potential sentence commutation, NBC reported Wednesday, citing a Justice Department source.
“I’m staying optimistic,” Manning told VICE News through a liaison. “Regardless of the outcome, I am eternally grateful I have so much love and support out there.”
Manning’s attorneys were unable to confirm the NBC report.
The former Army intelligence analyst has been in custody since 2010, convicted of espionage, among other charges, for leaking thousands of sensitive military documents to WikiLeaks. She is serving her 35-year sentence at the Army barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
Manning’s lawyers filed the petition for clemency to the president’s office in mid-November. In the statement accompanying her petition, Manning said she accepted “full and complete responsibility” for her actions. “I have never made any excuses for what I did,” Manning wrote.” What I do know is that I am a far different person than I was in 2010. I am not Bradley Manning [her name before she transitioned]. I never really was. I am Chelsea Manning, a proud woman who is transgender and who, through this application, is respectfully requesting a first chance at life.”
She also wrote about what it’s like to be a transgender woman behind bars, away from a world that is becoming increasingly accepting of people like her. “I feel left out,” Manning wrote. “I wish I could take part in the changes that are happening now.”
Manning has served more than six years in prison — more time than any whistleblower has ever served for leaking government information to a news outlet — and has struggled during that time. She attempted suicide last summer, which she said was triggered by the Army’s inaction in responding to her doctor’s recommended treatment plan for her gender dysphoria — like allowing her to wear her hair long (she is still unable to wear her hair long, but the Army finally agreed in September to pay for her gender-affirming surgery). She has also been twice subjected to solitary confinement.
She told VICE News in September that thinking about her friends, her family, her cat Belle, and the taste of pepperoni pizza keeps her going.
Among the material that Manning gave to WikiLeaks was a video that showed airstrikes on Baghdad by two U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people, including two Iraqi men who were working for the Reuters news agency. The video raised questions about the conduct of U.S. military in Iraq and whether their actions might be interpreted as war crimes.