MOSCOW, August 21 (RAPSI) – Bradley Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday for leaking scores of classified documents, announced Thursday to NBC Today that he plans to live out the rest of his days as a woman named Chelsea.

In a statement released to the NBC news program Today, Manning explained: “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. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.”

In July, a US military judge found Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, but guilty of lesser charges for leaking 700,000 classified US military documents to WikiLeaks. According to advocacy group Bradley Manning Support Network’s website, prosecutors requested a 60-year prison term and a fine of $100,000. Meanwhile defense attorney David Coombs was quoted by the Support Network as having urged the judge not to rob Manning of his youth, requesting a sentence that would allow Manning to “maybe get married, maybe have children, perhaps have a relationship with his children’s children.” 

Manning could have received a sentence of life in prison if convicted on the charge of aiding the enemy.

Military judge Army Col. Denise Lind found Manning guilty on five espionage counts, theft and computer fraud. The defendant had already pleaded guilty to nearly a dozen lesser charges that carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

According to advocacy group the Bradley Manning Support Network’s website, Manning was accused of having leaked a video showing US soldiers killing unarmed civilians in Iraq, including a photojournalist for Reuters and his driver. He was further accused of having leaked a multitude of Army reports and diplomatic cables.

Manning was quoted as having said of the leaks, “I believed and still believe these are some of most important documents of our time,” and then of having defended his decision to disclose on the basis of having wanted to ignite a domestic dialogue on America’s war on terror. In his view, the footage needed to be seen by the American public, as its government had become “obsessed with capturing and killing people.”

Speaking of the Iraq killing video, he reportedly described the footage as “similar to a child torturing ants [with] a magnifying glass.”

He was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison. Experts confirmed that it could have been much worse. 

"The 35 year sentence was appropriate and in the low range of what was requested by both the prosecution and defense, and far short of the 90 years Manning could have received. Under the law, Manning could actually be released in less than ten years if he behaves appropriately while incarcerated," Mark S. Zaid, a Washington, D.C. attorney who regularly represents national security whistleblowers, told RAPSI Wednesday. Zaid added that "there had to be consequences for brazenly violating the law and harming national security. Individuals do not get to render national security.