Outgoing President Barack Obama announced his decision to overrule his secretary of defense and commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning on Wednesday last week. However, it turns out it may not quite be the happiest of endings for the 29-year old whistleblower. The US Army have made it clear that should Manning be removed from the Prison, she will lose the gender-care benefits she is currently entitled to as part of the Pentagon’s new policy regarding transgender troops.
US Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith spoke with USA Today, explaining the situation concerning Manning.
“If Pvt Manning is discharged with a dishonorable discharge, she will lose her entitlement to (military) benefits, including gender-transition care at (military) medical treatment facilities.”
Manning, who is a transgender woman, had been serving her sentence in Fort Leavenworth, an all-male Army prison in Kansas. She is now set to lose her entitlement of a general re-assignment surgery which is a part of the Pentagon’s new policy for its trans troops. 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.
Chelsea Manning, 29, was convicted of stealing and sharing over 750,000 pages of confidential documents and videos to Wikileaks. Obama made a statement justifying his decision to commute Chelsea’s sentence.
“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.”
Chelsea Manning thanked President Barack Obama for commuting her sentence. 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
Obama’s decision was however 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 seven 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.
[Featured Image by U.S. Army/Wikipedia Fair Use]