- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2016

Chelsea Manning, the former Army soldier convicted of the biggest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, filed a 209-page appeal Wednesday in an effort to have her 35-year prison sentence reduced to 10 years.

In a lengthy argument filed this week with the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, attorneys for Manning called the prison sentence “grossly unfair and unprecedented,” claiming that “no whistleblower in American history has been sentenced this harshly.”

Manning, 28, was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, among other charges, after admittedly supplying the WikiLeaks website with a trove of classified Defense Department and State Department documents, including previously unpublished details about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a cache of diplomatic cables taken from government computer networks.

Known then as Bradley Manning, the soldier was arrested in May 2010 while serving in Iraq and was convicted three years later.

Her appeal claims the 35-year sentence handed down by a military judge is overreaching, especially when considering the documents she shared with WikiLeaks.

“PFC Manning disclosed the materials because under the circumstances she thought it was the right thing to do. She believed the public had a right to know about the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the loss of life, and the extent to which the government sought to hide embarrassing information of its wrongdoing,” the appeal reads.

In a blog post, Manning said she has asked an appeals judge to take into account the pretrial solitary confinement she was subjected to before being court-martialed, as well as what she described as “vague evidence” relied on by the government in securing the 35-year sentence, among other factors.

“I have asked the judges to dismiss all charges or give me a shorter sentence,” Manning wrote. “All in all, rather than this being the end, this is only beginning.”

Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others, have all filed amicus briefs on Manning’s behalf, the soldier said in the blog post.

“The selective prosecution of those who disclose government information is profoundly dangerous to our democracy. Using the Espionage Act to punish government leakers or whistleblowers risks chilling speech on matters of significant public concern, and it gives the government too much power to maintain secrecy about matters that are critical for an informed public to hold its government accountable,” staff attorneys Dror Ladin and Esha Bhandari wrote Thursday on the ACLU website.

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