Image: Army Pfc. Bradley Manning wearing his uniform, left, and wearing a wig, right.
Patrick Semansky / AP; U.S. Army

TODAY   |  August 22, 2013

Bradley Manning: I want to live as a woman

“I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” explains the Army private via a statement read on TODAY Thursday. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday for leaking classified government documents.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> bradley manning 's attorney, david coombs is with us exclusively. first question is about this issue of parole. he's eligible in seven years. assuming good behavior, do you expect him to be out of prison in seven years?

>> i expect him to be out but i expect him to get pardoned, at least that's what my hope is. that the president will pardon mr. manning .

>> i will ask you about that. let's talk about this. during the sentencing phase he stood up and said he was sorry, he was sorry for hurting the united states . junian assange, the leader of wikileaks , to which these classified files leaked said mr. manning is a statement extorted from him under the over bearing weight of the united states military justice system . is assange right or is bradley manning truly sorry?

>> he's sorry if anything he did harmed anybody. that was never his intent. his intent was to give information to the american public. he wanted to help people, not hurt people. the government brought some evidence in that was speculative at best that said there was potential harm. for that he said if it's true, he's sorry.

>> let me put it this way, would he take the same actions today.

>> i think he has a very strong moral compass so my answer is, yes, he would.

>> do you think in any way he was used or persuaded or manipulated by wikileaks and assange? i ask you that because during this trial, particularly in the sentencing stage, you portrayed him as somebody under extreme distress, psychologically damaged dealing with a host of issues. do you have any concerns about that?

>> no. the stress that he was under was mostly to give context to what was going on at the time. it was never an excuse for his actions because that was not what drove his actions. what drove his actions was a strong moral compass . wikileaks had nothing to do with bringing information out of him. he gave information to wikileaks .

>> you mentioned that moral compass . on the other hand, if he wanted to expose wrongdoing, how does he justify the indiscriminate mass leak of 750,000 documents that he could not have possibly read or known what was in them?

>> you look at one document and it's basically by itself and you would say, okay, he could read one document. he can't read 700,000 documents, but these documents are pretty much the same thing and so you can get through a lot of documents realizing that there's not going to be harmful information in these documents, and there wasn't.

>> let's talk about mr. manning personally. he has provided a statement that he wants us to read and this is part of it. 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 i feel and have felt since childhood, i want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. i also request that starting today you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun. why did she choose this moment to announce this?

>> well, chelsea didn't want this to be something that overshadowed the case, wanted to wait until the case was done to move forward to the next stage of her life.

>> she wants hormone therapy . fort leavenworth does not provide that. are you going to sue to try to force the government to give her hormone therapy and perhaps a sex reassignment surgery ?

>> well, i don't know about the sex reassignment surgery that chelsea hasn't indicated that that would be her desire, but as far as the hormone therapy , yes. i'm hoping fort leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that. if fort leavenworth does not, then i am going to do everything in my power to make sure that they are forced to do so.

>> is the ultimate goal for her/him to be in a female population, a female prison?

>> no. i think the ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she's never had the opportunity to be.

>> do you have any fear for her being in a general male population, number one for the crimes for which she's been convicted, and also saying i want to live as a female? do you fear for her safety?

>> i don't, and the reason why is everyone that's in a military prison is a first-time offender. these are soldiers who have done something wrong, have gone to prison and are really just trying to do their time and then get out.

>> is it the bottom line you don't think she wants sex resignment surgery or she doesn't think she'll be able to get it?

>> i haven't really discussed that aspect of it with her. really it's more about getting the hormone therapy so at this point i don't know the answer to that.

>> one of the defense psychiatrists at trial testified that manning has narcissistic tendencies, and i wonder if there's anything to that in the sense that she's announcing this in this very big, public way.

>> no, i think this is really trying to let people have the answer that they wanted. she never really wanted this to be public to begin with. when the information came out, you need to understand that she gave it to adrian lamo in a very private setting, in a one-on-one chat, never expecting this to be public. now that it is unfortunately you have to deal with it in a public manner.

>> as she left in the courtroom yesterday some supporters shouted, you are a hero. does she consider herself a hero?

>> she doesn't. she considers herself as somebody who did something she felt morally obligated to do and something she felt she had to do.

>> no regrets?

>> no regrets.