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Bradley Manning, the Army private responsible for the largest leak of classified U.S. documents, said on Thursday that he wants to live the rest of his life as a woman named Chelsea. The statement came a day after he was sentenced to 35 years for leaking documents to WikiLeaks.
Manning sent the statement to NBC’s Today Show and it was read aloud on the program this morning. His lawyer, David Coombs, also spoke with Savannah Guthrie.
“I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” Manning’s statement reads. “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.”
The 25-year-old was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday by a military judge. He was found guilty of 20 charges related to his leaking of over 700,000 documents to the website WikiLeaks. The documents included material on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as State Department cables.
Manning added that he asks that he be referred to as “she” from now on when people write to him. “I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.”
The statement was signed “Chelsea E. Manning.”
Coombs told Guthrie that, “The stress that he was under was mostly to give context to what was going on at the time. It was never an excuse because that's not what drove his actions. What drove his actions was a strong moral compass.”
During the trial, his attorneys did bring up his trouble with gender identity and noted that in an April 2010 email, he told his supervisor that he joined the Army to “get rid of it.” Manning’s email did include a picture of him with a blonde wig and wearing lipstick.
The Army did issue a response, noting that “Inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks and Joint Regional Correctional Facility are treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” However, the Army added, “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder. The USDB has implemented risk assessment protocols and safety procedures to address high risk factors identified with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.”
Manning is likely to spend his time at Fort Leavenworth, which is the only facility for military prisoners with sentences longer than 10 years.
image: Wikimedia Commons