Bradley Manning’s legal team plans to ask the White House to pardon their client, who on Wednesday was sentenced to 35 years in prison for violating the Espionage Act, though the chances of President Obama doing so are slim to none. Still, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs announced in a post-sentencing press conference that he plans to make the appeal on principle. “The cancer of over-classification is threatening the very fabric of our free society,” he said. “Over-classification hinders debate. It hinders what we know about the government.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that a clemency request from Manning would “be considered in that process like any other application.”
Manning, who apologized for “[hurting] the United States” ahead of his conviction, has written a statement to be included in the petition Coombs said he will file with the Department of the Army early next week. The letter, which Coombs read for reporters on Wednesday, is mostly a reiteration of Manning’s reasons for leaking documents to WikiLeaks. “The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in,” he wrote, explaining that he “started to question the morality” when he began reading military reports as a soldier stationed in Iraq.
Citing the killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, the indefinite detention of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and the United States government’s “[turning] a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government,” Manning went on to write, “Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy — the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps — to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.” The letter concludes with Manning explaining that, “When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.” The entire statement can be read here.