Chelsea Manning has thanked President Barack Obama for commuting her sentence, CNN reports. The former soldier thanked the outgoing President on Thursday, tweeting, “Thank you @BarackObama for giving me a chance. =,)”
Thank you @BarackObama for giving me a chance. =,)
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) January 19, 2017
Outgoing President Barack Obama announced his decision to overrule his secretary of defense and commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning on Wednesday. The 29-year old whistleblower was convicted of stealing and sharing over 750,000 pages of confidential documents and videos to Wikileaks. Obama made a statement justifying one of his last decisions as U.S. president.
“Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence. The notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished — I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served.”
Obama’s decision was met with sharp criticism from some Republicans and the Intelligence community. Obama’s own Secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, spoke with CNN, saying that despite him being against the decision, the president used his executive power to make the decision.
“All I’ll say about the Manning case is I did not support the direction the President went. But he’s made his decision. That was not my recommendation.”
A former CIA Intelligence official also called the decision rash and hypocritical.
“The entire intelligence community is deflated by this inexplicable use of executive power. The move is also deeply hypocritical given Obama’s denunciation of WikiLeaks’ role in the hacking of the (Democratic National Committee).”
Chelsea Manning, 29, was sentenced to a 35-year long jail term with the possibility of parole after 7 years in August 2013. She was convicted of handing a large amount of classified documents to the whistleblower site, WikiLeaks, and she was charged with espionage. Before her conviction, Manning had served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, a position that made it possible for her to leak those documents. This leak is considered the biggest breach of classified documents in United States history.
Statement from Chelsea’s legal team (until we can get a statement from Chelsea herself) https://t.co/vyRMIl2Sug
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) July 6, 2016
Manning, who is a transgender woman, had been serving her sentence in Fort Leavenworth, an all-male Army prison in Kansas. She had requested a transfer to a civilian prison, but the request was denied. Chelsea, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was born a man, but she had been undergoing hormone therapy to become a female. On the day of her conviction, she announced her transition to the court.
“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.”
Manning had filed a lawsuit against the Army, claiming that she had been denied her hormone therapy for over a year. Following the lawsuit, the US Armed Forces deemed it “medically appropriate and necessary” to provide her the hormone therapy. She has since been receiving the hormones to complete her transition into a woman while serving her sentence.
Despite living behind bars for the past few years, Chelsea has been contributing opinion pieces to the Guardian on topics of war, gender, and freedom of information. Her latest piece was about the Orlando shooting from last month that claimed the lives of 49 people. She also operates an active twitter account, xychlesea, by using a telephone to dictate her ideas to intermediaries who then tweet on her behalf.
Manning’s attorney, Nancy Hollander, says she only learned of the commutation at the time Obama made the announcement.
“She knows she’s going to be free. She can start her life.”
[Featured Image by U.S. Army/Wikipedia Fair Use]