Convicted U.S. Army soldier Bradley Edward Manning, sentenced after a court martial to 35 years for espionage, released a statement on Thursday, August 22, 2013 saying that he wanted to be known as Chelsea E. Manning, referred to as a female, and given gender reassignment while serving time at Fort Leavenworth federal prison, as reported on that date by The Guardian, Forbes, The Boston Globe, NBC Today, and other news sources.
In his announcement, Manning added fuel to the roaring controversy surrounding his actions, saying "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. 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."
While the federal government doesn't support or pay for gender reassignment of federal prisoners, Manning's lawyers indicated that is another battle they are willing to pursue for their client.
Gender reassignment includes a psychological evaluation to approve the administration of hormone replacement therapy and eventually sex reassignment surgery. It is a controversial issue, regarded by some as a mental disorder, and others as a way of aligning a person's basic identity and self-perceptions.
Notable transgender persons have included Christine Jorgensen, Chas Bono, Alexis Arquette, and a long list of others.
Before Manning was discovered to have leaked classified documents, the soldier was already pending discharge from the Army for an adjustment disorder, according to a report published in Wired Magazine on July 13, 2011.
Whatever the outcome of this latest turn of events in an already charged and bizarre emotional case, Manning will be given credit for time already served. With good behavior, he could be released in as little as 8 years. There is also a massive lobbying effort for him to receive a presidential pardon, or to have his sentence reduced. That may prove difficult in light of the recent defection to Russia of NSA computer hacker Edward Snowden.
President Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice wants to show that there is a heavy price to be paid for leaking government secrets.
Manning agrees, saying "I am willing to pay the price of living in a free society."
The 25-year-old former military intelligence analyst had uploaded over 750,000 sensitive classified documents to WikiLeaks, an international online agency that serves as an information channel for anonymous whistle blowers.
Manning had become a cult hero and lightening rod for anyone critical of covert U.S. operations against terrorists, and military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had resulted in civilian casualties referred to as "collateral damage."
Demonstrators at the White House on Wednesday, August 21, wore masks similar to those of the protagonist in the 2005 British anti-authoritarian action film "V for Vendetta", as seen in the attached slide show.
Whether or not this turns out to be an example of real life imitating art remains to be determined.
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