By David Dishneau Associated Press
An Army general has upheld Private Chelsea Manning’s conviction and 35-year prison sentence for giving reams of classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, the Army said Monday.
The approval by Maj. Gen. Jeffery S. Buchanan, commander of the Military District of Washington, clears the way for an automatic appeal of the case to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. Manning’s appellate lawyers said Sunday that they expect their appeal to focus on issues including alleged misuse of the Espionage Act.
The 26-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., was sentenced in August for six Espionage Act violations and 14 other offenses for leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents, plus some battlefield video, while serving in Iraq in 2009 and 2010. Buchanan, as commander of the jurisdiction in which the trial was held, had the option of approving or reducing the court-martial findings.
Manning is serving her sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Military prosecutors at Manning’s trial last summer called the former intelligence analyst an anarchist hacker and traitor who indiscriminately leaked information she had sworn to protect, knowing it would be seen by al-Qaida. It was among the largest leaks of classified information in U.S. history.
Manning supporters consider her a whistleblower who exposed U.S. war crimes and diplomatic hypocrisy while working in Iraq.
Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, was convicted in July of 20 crimes but acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. After sentencing, Manning declared a desire to live as a woman named Chelsea, having been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
With good behavior, Manning could be released as early as February 2020, according to her trial attorney, David Coombs.