President Obama just commuted the majority of whistleblower Chelsea Manning‘s 35-year prison sentence, releasing the former Army intelligence soldier just five months from now. Formerly known as Bradley Manning, she has become one of the most famous trans people in the world, she has frequently been held in solitary confinement and with limited access to healthcare for her gender dysphoria in a military prison after delivering an embarrassing cache of secret diplomatic cables to Wikileaks.
President Obama’s spokesman told the New York Times:
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing.”
Manning leaked over a quarter of a million diplomatic cables, over 400,000 communications from the Iraq and Afganistan wars, and videos as well. It was the first major journalistic find by the now-infamous Russian mouthpiece Wikileaks. In her application for commutation, The Times reports that she accepted full responsibility for her actions, though she never imagined that it would lead to such a severe length of punishment.
“I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public,” she wrote. “I have never made any excuses for what I did. I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong.”
Apparently, President Obama agreed that the court was too harsh for punishing a non-violent crime of conscience, committed by a soldier grappling with a major identity crisis while in service. Conversely, the Obama administration commented publicly on another famous leaker’s pending application for clemency, Edward Snowden, who was a government contractor and is staying in Russia to avoid certain prosecution for his acts of unpermitted disclosure of national security information:
“Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
Chelsea Manning confessed in detail after her court marshal and was held in a military prison which has no medical capabilities to treat a transgendered person. Ultimately, she attempted to commit suicide which led to punishment by an extended stay in a solitary confinement cell.
The controversy about the right and wrong of Manning’s actions still rages to this day with defenders and detractors on both sides. However, everyone agrees that Chelsea Manning has suffered a painful, public punishment since being arrested in 2010 and has paid a personal price for her disclosures.
The only opinion that ultimately matters is that of the President, and his act of compassion towards a sworn member of America’s armed services does little to encourage new leaks but will relieve the tortured being in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas of the heavy burden of lengthy incarceration.
She will be freed on May 17th, 2017.
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition