Plea for mercy follows Manning's sentencing for leaking classified military documents to WikiLeaks
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning's attorney has called on President Obama to pardon his client.
"What's at stake here is how do we as a public want to be informed about what our government does," attorney David Coombs said in a news conference soon Wednesday, soon after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
The request is a longshot, to say the least: Manning is asking for a pardon from the same government that is prosecuting him. Obama said flatly that Manning "broke the law" even two years before his conviction.
Manning has been convicted of multiple charges, including violations of the Espionage Act. He copied the documents while serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
Coombs said that if Obama does not pardon Manning, he should at least commute his sentence to time served. Manning could have received up to 90 years behind bars.
Coombs also read a statement from Manning, in which he said he acted out of "concern for my country and the world that we live in." He said that while in Iraq, seeing Army dispatches, he "started to question the morality" of the U.S.'s methods of fighting its enemies, and said the U.S. sometimes killed innocent civilians, tortured people, and held prisoners at Guantanamo Bay without due process.
"Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power," Manning's statement continued. "When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is the American solider who is given the order to carry out some… ill-conceived mission."
He also paraphrased historian Howard Zinn: "There is not a large enough flag to cover the shame of killing innocent people."
Manning had argued in court that he was trying to inform the public about military and government wrongdoing when he supplied WikiLeaks with more than 700,000 pages of classified information in 2010, and did not intend to aid the enemy.
In a recent hearing he apologized for embarrassing American diplomats, among others.
"I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry I hurt the United States," he told the court. "I understood what I was doing was wrong, but I didn't appreciate the broader effects of my actions. … When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people."
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