Attorneys for Chelsea Manning, the former US military soldier who leaked secrets to WikiLeaks [advocacy website], on Thursday, filed a brief [text, PDF] to appeal her 35-year prison term [JURIST report] for violating the Espionage Act. Manning is asserting that her rights to free speech were violated by the Espionage Act [18 USC § 794 et seq.] because the court failed to determine the importance of the interest of the public’s need to know the information. Manning also argues that the limiting of speech under the act prevents a democratic society from being able to hold government officials accountable for their actions. Furthermore, the vagueness of the act will have a chilling effect on speech because the government has neither narrowly tailored the restrictions nor has it used the least restrictive means to regulate speech. As such the deterrent effect is to discriminatorily prosecute government whistle blowers and leakers:
The conviction and sentence of PFC Manning under the Espionage Act must be overturned for two reasons. First, the Espionage Act is unconstitutionally vague, because it provides the government a tool that the First Amendment forbids: a criminal statute that allows the government to subject speakers and messages it dislikes to discriminatory prosecution. Second, even if the Act were not unconstitutional in all its applications, the military judge’s application of the Act to PFC Manning violated the First Amendment because the military judge did not permit PFC Manning to assert any defense that would allow the court to evaluate the value to public discourse of any of the information she disclosed.
Manning has also appealed [text, PDF] her conviction [press release] from violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act [18 USC § 1030].
Manning filed [JURIST report] for a presidential pardon of her 35-year sentence in September 2013. US Army Major General Jeffery Buchanan upheld [JURIST report] Manning’s conviction and prison sentence for turning over classified information to WikiLeaks in April 2014. Manning was found guilty [JURIST report] of violating the Espionage Act in July 2013 but was acquitted of the more serious charge of “aiding the enemy.”