Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower currently in jail for a 2010 information leak that revealed a massive amount of information about classified American military and diplomatic activities is having the bulk of her remaining sentence commuted by Barack Obama.
According to the New York Times, Chelsea Manning will be freed from prison in approximately five months on May 17, 2017. Manning, whose birth name is Bradley, is a transgender woman who has been incarcerated in the military prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, for the past seven years. She was sentenced in 2010 to 35 years in prison for leaking the secret information. It is the longest sentence ever given to a leaker of confidential information in U.S. history.
Speculation has mounted in recent weeks as to whether Barack Obama would commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning. Supporters have argued that her sentence was unjustifiably harsh and that the information leaked was not particularly damaging, having been classified as secret, not top secret. Last year, Chelsea Manning attempted to commit suicide on two separate occasions. For the past several years, she has been formally requesting the military pay for her gender reassignment surgery to no avail.
White House spokesman, Joshua Earnest, recently commented on a possible commutation of Manning’s sentence, comparing and contrasting it to the subject of granting a pardon for another famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden.
“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,” Earnest said. “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.”
Wikileaks, Amnesty International, and Edward Snowden, himself, have all voiced support for a commutation of Manning’s sentence. Wikileaks have been routinely tweeting in support of Manning’s release, often publicizing the vocal support of celebrities, such as Michael Stipe, the former lead singer of R.E.M, and comedian, Russell Brand.
Edward Snowden even tweeted a selfless request to Barack Obama stating that if Obama only grants one pardon, that he should consider making that pardon for Manning instead of him.
Wikileaks has already tweeted in support of Obama’s decision.
According to Buzzfeed, a lawyer from the ACLU has stated that Barack Obama’s decision to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence could quite literally be a life-saving act. In her clemency request letter, Manning stated she did not intend to harm the United States.
“I have served a sufficiently long sentence,” Manning wrote. “I am not asking for a pardon of my conviction. I understand that the various collateral consequences of the court-martial conviction will stay on my record forever. The sole relief am asking for is to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members.”
Chelsea Manning is seen by some as a hero and by others as a traitor to the United States. The granting of her request for clemency by Barack Obama is sure to spark controversy among Americans who have strong opinions on Barack Obama, Wikileaks, whistleblowers, and government transparency, in general.
[Featured Image by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images]