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“Her Life Depends on Obama Taking Action Now”: 100,000+ People Demand Obama Free Chelsea Manning

StoryDecember 21, 2016
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As President Obama’s term nears to a close, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition urging Obama to commute the sentence of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified files and videos to WikiLeaks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. foreign policy. Manning has been held since 2010 and been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement and denied medical treatment related to her gender identity. In a letter to President Obama, Chelsea Manning wrote, “The sole relief I am asking for is to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members. I am merely asking for a first chance to live my life outside the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks as the person I was born to be.” For more, we speak with Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU, who is representing Manning in a lawsuit against the Pentagon.

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Video squareStoryJan 18, 2017Chelsea Manning’s Attorneys: Obama’s Commutation Will Help Save Life of Jailed Army Whistleblower
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: More than 100,000 people have signed a petition urging President Obama to commute the sentence of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified files and videos to WikiLeaks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and about U.S. foreign policy. Manning has been held since 2010 and been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement, has been denied medical treatment related to her gender identity.

In a letter to President Obama, Chelsea wrote, quote, “I have served a sufficiently long sentence. I am not asking for a pardon of my conviction. I understand that the various collateral consequences of the court-martial conviction will stay on my record forever. The sole relief I am asking for is to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members. I am merely asking for a first chance to live my life outside the [U.S. Disciplinary Barracks] as the person I was born to be.” Those, the words of Chelsea Manning.

To talk more about Manning, we’re joined by Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU. Chase Strangio represents Manning in a lawsuit against the Pentagon for denial of medical care related to her gender dysphoria.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about the call for clemency and where it stands now.

CHASE STRANGIO: Chelsea Manning has served six-and-a-half years in custody, already longer than any whistleblower who released information in the public interest to the news media in the history of the United States. She has petitioned the president for clemency. She, like we heard about Leonard Peltier, I do not believe, will survive much longer in custody—certainly not another three decades. And so, what we’re really looking at—

AMY GOODMAN: She has attempted suicide several times.

CHASE STRANGIO: She has attempted suicide several times. She has lived through brutal conditions of solitary confinement at Quantico. She was 22 years old when she was arrested, already living under trauma of anti-trans, anti-queer policies in our civil society and in the military, and then now brutal conditions in custody. Her life really does depend on Obama taking action now, and her supporters are calling on him to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what have you heard from the White House?

CHASE STRANGIO: We’ve heard nothing from the White House. We are, you know, well aware of the fact that we have a month left before Obama leaves office. Chelsea herself is continuing to speak publicly. We are continuing to draw attention to the fact that in our country we have very—our carceral regimes are themselves mechanisms of death, and the longer that she is subjected to the conditions that she is living under, the less likely it is that she will survive. And the reality is that we have a very limited amount of time to take action to save her. And Obama, you know, can do the right thing here, not just for Chelsea, but to send a message into a future in which whistleblowers are going to be more important than ever. Chelsea Manning is a hero to many of us. And I hope that we recognize—

AMY GOODMAN: Why is Chelsea Manning a hero to you?

CHASE STRANGIO: Chelsea Manning is a hero to me because she is absolutely someone who stands up for what she believes is right. She speaks truth in the face of systems of injustice. And she is the type of person that we’re going to need in our government in the next four years, certainly, and we absolutely should take action to protect the whistleblowers, who very well could save democracy for us.

AMY GOODMAN: And you call her a whistleblower because?

CHASE STRANGIO: I call Chelsea a whistleblower because she shared information that she believed, and I believed, was in the public interest, that allowed us to better understand the nature of injustice that our government was perpetrating in our name, both here in the United States and around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn for a moment to another top story, to switch gears and ask you about another case. And that is what’s going on in North Carolina today. The North Carolina governor-elect, Democrat Roy Cooper, has called for a special session today to consider repealing House Bill 2, which he’s called one of the most discriminatory laws in the country. The law, also called “the bathroom bill,” denies transgender people use of the bathroom, changing room or locker room that matches their gender identity. Can you explain what is going on, what’s happening with the Charlotte City Council? And it’s the current governor, McCrory, who’s in charge right now.

CHASE STRANGIO: Current Governor McCrory is in charge. The politicians in North Carolina have brokered a deal, as they are saying, whereby Charlotte has repealed their nondiscrimination law. And apparently today, McCrory has called a special session, wherein leadership has claimed, although somewhat backtracking, that they will repeal HB 2.

I think two important things to note. One is, HB 2 was an unnecessary law that had nothing to do, in reality, with Charlotte extending nondiscrimination protections. It was a law fueled by fear of and hate of trans people, and a law that should have been repealed, or never passed from its inception. And the other thing to note is that, today, if HB 2 is repealed, it is not because of the politicians in North Carolina, it is not because of Charlotte; it is because of leaders like Reverend Dr. Barber of Moral Mondays, of the organizers in North Carolina, the queer and trans people of color, who have put their lives on the line for justice here. And hopefully we will see an end to this terrible law today.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Chase Strangio. We will certainly cover this. Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU, represents Chelsea Manning in a lawsuit against the Pentagon, also involved in the fight against HB 2 in North Carolina.

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