Chelsea Manning Proposed a Bill from Prison

Banners supporting Manning hang in San Francisco in 2014. Banners supporting Manning hang in San Francisco in 2014. Flickr user gazeronly

Chelsea Manning wants to change the laws that earned her a 35-year sentence in prison.

The convicted soldier on Thursday proposed the "Bill to Re-Establish the National Integrity and to Protect Freedom of Speech, and the Freedom of the Press," in a memo she sent to every member of Congress from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where she's being held.

Manning was arrested in 2010 and sentenced three years later for leaking more than 700,000 classified military documents. Then known as Bradley Manning, she was initially charged for "aiding the enemy" under the Espionage Act, but was later acquitted of that charge. She still faced five other charges under that law, among other charges for theft.

Her wide-ranging proposal would make changes to Freedom of Information Act law, the Espionage Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It would also significantly widen the federal protections afforded to journalists.

Manning announced the memo on Twitter, where she's maintained a presence since early April. (She doesn't have Internet access in prison, so she dictates messages to be posted to her Twitter account.) The account went on to tweet details about her proposed policy changes and encouraged Americans to lobby for the bill.

Manning's proposed bill would simultaneously prod the government toward more openness and transparency while it extends protections for whistleblowers and the journalists who help them. The amendments to FOIA law would make government information more accessible, while proposed limits to the Espionage Act would make it harder for the government to prosecute a whistleblower for "aiding the enemy" under that law.

Manning also wants to widen the definition of journalism so that more people engaged in information-gathering are protected under law. The new definition would likely include WikiLeaks, the controversial organization that published the documents Manning leaked.

Just a day before circulating her model bill, Manning published an op-ed in The Guardiandetailing her grievances with the Obama administration's persistent prosecution of leakers and whistleblowers. "The US needs legislation to protect the public's right to free speech and a free press, to protect it from the actions of the executive branch and to promote the integrity and transparency of the US government," Manning wrote.

Manning, who is an unpaid columnist for The Guardian, has previously written from prison about the CIA's torture program and her experience as a transgender person in the U.S. military.

(Image via Flickr user gazeronly)

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