A legal defense fund for Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence worker sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking secret documents to WikiLeaks, has been flooded with donations, exceeding its goal with more than $125,000 in 48 hours.
“The level of grassroots support for this campaign has been truly impressive. Close to 1,100 donors in just 48 hours made their voices heard for Chelsea’s cause,” Trevor Timm, executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, said in a statement. “It really shows how small donations can add up to something huge. Because of this success, we’re raising our goal to the full amount Chelsea Manning’s attorney has estimated will be needed to bring the case through oral arguments in the Army Court of Appeals. We’re confident, with your help, we can get there.”
Nancy Hollander, Manning’s attorney, said contributions to the crowdsourced fund are “beyond our wildest dreams.”
“We are grateful for this outpouring and continued support as we travel down this long road,” Hollander said.
Manning, 27, is imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas for giving hundreds of thousands of government files to WikiLeaks, including information on U.S. operations in Guantánamo Bay and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Formerly Pfc. Bradley Manning, she will be eligible for parole in about 2020.
Manning began the process of transitioning to a woman last year, and was approved for a gender-reassignment hormone therapy in February. It was the first time the Defense Department has authorized such a treatment for an active service member, and followed a lawsuit pressing the military to allow Manning’s transition.
Manning and her legal team are pursuing an appeal of her conviction, with the hope of reducing her prison term. Prior to the fundraising campaign, Manning had collected about $40,000 in donations to cover legal fees.
First Look Media, the news organization created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, announced the campaign on Wednesday, and pledged to match $60,000 in donations. According to the statement, $10,000 of the match will come from First Look’s prominent investigative journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who has led coverage of former National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s disclosures of government spying on ordinary citizens.
Greenwald explained the campaign in a post for First Look’s investigative news outfit, The Intercept:
“Whatever else one thinks of Manning, she should not face limits in her ability to pursue her legal rights with full zeal, nor should her already difficult circumstances be exacerbated by worries over how to pay legal fees,” he wrote. “Her actions redounded to the benefit of all of us, and it’s incumbent on those who are able to do what they can to help her defend her legal rights. It’s in our collective interest to ensure that whistleblowers are able to receive a full, vigorous defense of their rights, and that the government’s pernicious anti-transparency theories be contested.”